Britain to the Eurozone: Get Your Act Together

By Quinn, Ben | The Christian Science Monitor, January 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Britain to the Eurozone: Get Your Act Together


Quinn, Ben, The Christian Science Monitor


UK finance chief George Osborne called on his European neighbors to put their 'house in order' as Britain sees some promising economic gains.

Boosted at the dawn of a new year by tentative signs that Britain's economic recovery is gaining momentum, the British coalition government has acquired something of a spring to its step.

Or a reckless swagger, some say.

Although 2011 will see the affect of tough austerity measures unmatched by any other big European state, economic figures this week show something of a surprise. The strongest British manufacturing performance in 16 years last month has encouraged Prime Minister David Cameron's administration that its radical plans for rebalancing the economy are paying off.

Five noteworthy aspects of Britain's tough spending plan

With the UK's neighbors still mired in a debt-driven crisis threatening the eurozone, Britain's finance minister called Thursday on Europe to "put its own house in order" in 2011. He urged states sharing the common currency to underpin it and decisively sort out the bloc's fragile banking system.

Call to 'bold' action

George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, used an article in the Financial Times to assert that Europe has not been bold enough in its response to its currency and banking problems. He also invited others to follow Britain's embrace of stringent deficit reduction.

"Action at a European level needs to be matched by difficult domestic decisions," he wrote. "The affirmation of the UK's triple A credit rating, and the fall in our market interest rates, shows that it is possible to earn credibility with a convincing deficit reduction plan."

Response to the call?

Britain has a vested interest in the health of key European trading partners. Their reaction to Britain's advice may be icy - some Brits have gloated over the euro's woes as a vindication of their opposition to Britain ever joining the single currency.

Thomas Klau, a Paris-based analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, says: "Many in other EU members states will regard it as being a bit rich for a British chancellor to be now telling the Continent how to deal with this crisis."

"Clearly, in the opinion of many continental Europeans it was the British government's fierce defense of city [financial] interests and its continuing refusal to accept a need for tougher regulation that was one of the key factors that led us to the financial disaster in 2008," he says. …

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