European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Labour, South Shields 1:31 pm, 3rd June 2010

No, I will make some progress, and if I may, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman later. He made at least two interventions on the Foreign Secretary.

I shall focus on the June Council agenda, which is understandably dedicated to addressing first the economic situation. The difficulties are well known, but the extent and possible permutations of the solutions are still relatively unknown, causing some instability in European and global markets. Concerns about Greece's sovereign debt have led to market concern about other southern European economies. Eurozone growth figures are due to be released tomorrow-one disadvantage of having this debate before the European Council-and they will obviously provide a useful indicator for Council action.

All that matters to Britain, as the Foreign Secretary suggested, because 55% of our exports go to the EU. We are part of the largest single market in the world, along with our European partners. Half of UK inward investment comes from the EU. Out of the euro, we should still want the euro to succeed. In the light of those problems, the European Council needs to be clear about what needs to be done. The instability in the global economy as a result of Greece's problems emphasises the need for effective and co-ordinated European action, as well as certainty for financial markets. A clear resolution framework is needed, and the eurozone countries must reach agreement between their members on the way forward.

However, this Council must be about growth, too, and it should look at the European economy as a whole. Competitive austerity, blind to the need to secure growth, will secure neither deficit reduction nor economic growth that improves living standards. In Europe and at the G20 meeting in Toronto, it is vital that the Government make that argument. As the US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said only yesterday:

"we want...fiscal reforms to happen in a way that's growth friendly."

That must surely be the right approach for any sensible Government. We on the Opposition Benches certainly share that view, for Europe and the global economy going into the G20. Deficits need to be brought down, but Europe also needs to think about generating growth, not simply stymieing demand through cutting too fast and too far. We urge the Government to push that argument, as well as that expressed by President Obama's Administration.

The European Council has an extremely important role in agreeing ways of supporting European economic growth and better governance, and in fostering understanding between some of the strongest economies in the world. The last European Council meeting in March agreed, at the instigation of the then Prime Minister, a series of propositions on competitiveness, the prospects for European growth and the state of preparedness for the G20 summit.

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