New Clause 1 — Impact of the European Stability Mechanism on the UK

Part of European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 10th September 2012.

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Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 6:00 pm, 10th September 2012

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Benton. We are seeking to add two new clauses to the Bill to underline the importance of the European stability mechanism to the British economy. New clause 1 would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide an annual assessment of the impact of the ESM on the British economy. For instance, in the best case scenario we would hope that if ESM funds were needed and used appropriately, they would enhance the stability of the specific member state they were put in place to support, and therefore also have a positive effect on our economy.

We have some concerns about the conditionality of the ESM, for example if the conditions attached to granting ESM support are too harsh. It would, therefore, be beneficial to have an assessment of the impact of that austerity on the eurozone member state in question and—importantly for new clause 1—of the knock-on effect on the eurozone more widely, and on the British economy. Given that 40% of British exports go to the eurozone, and that our financial sectors and banks are closely connected, it is important that the Government provide systematic assessments of the operation of the ESM and its impact on our economy.

New clause 2 would introduce a specific and timely requirement for an analysis of each instance of ESM activity, without having to wait for the Chancellor’s annual report that is provided for in new clause 1. For example, if the ESM is triggered to provide support for Spain, Italy, Ireland or Greece, there will be varying levels of economic impact on UK trade and growth. An analysis of the downstream impact that each instance of ESM activity might have on the UK would give Members of this House and the other place, as well as the public, a clearer sense of the nature of the conditions imposed and the indirect impact of the ESM’s operation on our economic prospects.

The ESM conditions are to be detailed in a memorandum of understanding between the European Commission and beneficiary member states that will outline specific economic policy and fiscal adjustment conditions. The Committee should be informed of those conditions, and should have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise whether they are fair and reasonable, and whether Ministers should make their own representations on the nature of those terms and conditions.

It is imperative that any conditions imposed are not detrimental to the fragile recovery of the economy of the member state in question, and that any effects of those conditions do not have an indirect negative impact on our economy.

Regrettably, the Government have isolated themselves to such an extent that they might be unable to exert the requisite leverage in debates on conditionality. Nevertheless, the Europe Minister is conducting a charm offensive—he has written various articles, including one written in beautiful French for Le Monde and one written in Swedish for a Swedish newspaper—with the intention of rebuilding bridges with our European partners.

The Opposition applaud the Minister for that initiative —Conservative Back Benchers might not applaud him, but we do not want to intrude on private grief by going through the differences of opinion between those on the Treasury Bench and Conservative Back Benchers who do not agree with them—but we fear that the charm offensive might be too little, too late. We wish the Minister the best in his endeavours.