Earlier today, the Treasury Select Committee heard evidence from several experts about the possible ways in which the ongoing Eurozone crisis could have an impact on the UK.
Appearing before us in the first session was Professor Charles Goodhart of the LSE and Professor William Perraudin of Imperial College. Later in the day, we heard from Simon Hayes, Chief Economist at Barclays Capital, Jan Randolph, Director of Sovereign Risk at IHS Global Insight, and Simon Tilford, Chief Economist at the Centre for European Reform.
In questioning Profs Goodhart and Perraudin, I was very keen to hear more about how the UK might influence our EU partners in policy matters, particularly through the Financial Stability Mechanism and European Central Bank. In particular, I questioned whether the ECB should require all banks to mark to market their sovereign debt, given the importance of transparency in reducing the risk to banks and consumers of being affected by any forthcoming impact of the Eurozone crisis.
In the second session, my focus was very much on whether the witnesses could state with any certainty that the UK was beyond the stage of being able to prevent the Eurozone crisis from affecting us. Whilst it was reassuring to hear that their collective view is that Greece will be able to remain in the Eurozone, I was very concerned that there was also a view that the ECB should become a lender of last resort in all circumstances, no matter how much money an individual crisis may require. It is just not possible, in the timeframe available, for that to happen, with complete rights to obligate the entire EU membership.
It was also exceptionally worrying that both Mr Hayes and Mr Tilford were clear that a default in the Eurozone, or some other massive crisis, would affect Britain’s prospects, including our own credit rating and the viability of our banking system, undermining Britain’s long-term prospects.
I am pleased that the TSC is focusing on how important it is for the UK to be able to set policy in our national interest, rather than in the interest of those Eurozone members who are so badly affected by the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in southern Europe.
You can watch my exchanges in both sessions below.