So our Con-Dem government – more Con than Lib-Dem it has to be said – have been part of the Irish bail out. While I think this was absolutely the right thing to do, the Eurosceptics are spitting blood.
The fact that Britain is taking part in the three way bail-out – through the IMF, the European Union and by providing a unilateral loan is obviously significant. The UK’s Conservative (and Liberal-Democrat) government has admitted that a euro zone country in difficulties should receive assistance and that euro-free Britain should make a substantial contribution. (For the record, the UK contribution to Ireland is estimated at somewhere near £10 billion)
We also now hear that the special euro stabilisation mechanism, worth €13 billion may be activated against Britain’s wishes if Portugal and Spain need rescue packages – a very real fear as the financial markets get ever more jittery.
Although in one sense the UK may congratulate itself in not being part of the euro as it goes through this difficult crisis, we are also justified in asking ourselves what we have gained from being outside the single currency. £10 billion spent on propping up one of the euro zone countries strikes me as high a price as any Britain would have had to pay were it in the euro.
On a narrower point, this bail out of Ireland has surely spelt the death throes of the Eurosceptics. There cannot possibly be any credibility left for any political credo which maintains that Britain is not part of Europe and should withdraw from the EU.
The crisis of the euro has shown in very graphic terms that the UK is in Europe and cannot ignore what happens in other EU member states when it comes to their economies. Britain has ended up paying out a very considerable sum of money. I doubt if it would have been any more if Britain had been a fully signed up member of the euro zone.
The last Labour government, it is true, refused to take Britain into the Euro. I have always been in favour of joining the single currency and, I must say, am once again beginning to feel vindicated that my point of view is the best one for our country.