What About Ireland?

It was good to see the Prime Minister speak of a break-up of the Euro today, without being berated by his Chancellor in the way that some European Finance Ministers were yesterday.

The sooner the Euro breaks up and Europe begins to pick up the pieces, the sooner Europe will get back to growth, to our benefit as well as theirs. The truth though is that we are bystanders to this denouncement, having failed to veto their folly at Maastricht.

We can, of course, help Mediterranean countries that leave the Euro pay their way again by holidaying there as it becomes affordable once more.

Beyond that, the decision Britain faces is what we could do on our doorstep in respect of Ireland. With Euro break-up would Ireland have to go it alone like Greece, or would we be prepared to support Ireland make an orderly return to sterling?

That, of course, was the status quo ante before Ireland’s ill-fated European currency arrangements, with sterling notes and coins continuing to circulate long after independence, and every Irish pound being backed one for one under a sterling currency board until Ireland joined the ERM in 1979.

Eighteen months ago I commissioned an opinion poll in the Republic which showed, even then, that more than a third of Irish people wanted to leave the Euro and return to sterling, with support strongest amongst the young and, interestingly, Sinn Fein supporters.

What would be in this for the UK, beyond supporting friends and neighbours to whom we are tied by history? Well, we could:

1) avoid a collapse in trade and competitiveness with one of our most important export markets;

2) protect a still fragile UK banking system which has uniquely substantial exposure to Ireland; and

3) ensure proper priority for UK creditors, by reversing their EU-inspired subordination to European Central Bank credit and the largely Germany holders of (mis-)guaranteed Irish bank senior debt.

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Filed under conservatives, Crisis, daniel hannan, david cameron, economy, europe, Eurozone, george osborne, Greece, ireland, mark reckless, rochester and strood

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