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Banking Union and Economic and Monetary Union

Part of Free School Meals (Children Over the Age of 16) – in the House of Commons at 5:18 pm on 6th November 2012.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 5:18 pm, 6th November 2012

I will not give way yet, as I am conscious of the time.

We were right, too, to bail out the banks in 2008, but that came at a high cost for the taxpayer and for the country’s economic prospects. UK public debt was adversely affected by the purchase of banking assets and the subsequent loss of revenues from financial services. These issues are now affecting countries around the world, especially in the EU. Monetary policy sovereignty has allowed the UK to adopt an active interest rate policy to counteract those economic headwinds—something less available to those in the eurozone.

To save the euro, the eurozone has looked at new rules to grip the fiscal policies of its member states. Fiscal union in the EU is now widely recognised as dependent on banking union. Germany initially insisted on that, and it has asked that the single supervisory mechanism—the eurozone nation state regulators and Governments—be completed before banks can access the European stability mechanism and the European Central Bank’s outright monetary transactions programme, hence the imperative to agree these matters. In recent weeks, however, Germany is rumoured to have lost some enthusiasm for that tougher banking union and its consequences, especially as some of its smaller banks face major regulatory upheaval.

It is right that the ECB’s role in supervisory policy should be triggered, by unanimity if necessary, as required in the Maastricht treaty. Central banks are increasingly in the driving seat in financial regulation, as is the case in the UK, and it is necessary for the ECB to have a clear capability in its role overseeing the operation of the eurozone. The ECB is a full treaty institution, and it must be governed by treaty rules and member state unanimity, as we heard from the Minister. In that process, the rights of non-eurozone members, particularly the UK, must be safeguarded in several ways. We should not be party to any deposit guarantee mechanisms or pre-fund recovery or resolution mechanisms. The UK has undertaken its own measures in that respect, and there are no proposals on the table that would affect our taxpayers directly.

The rules for the single market, including a single rule book for the financial services sector in the EU, should involve all 27 member states. The European Banking Authority—as well as other European supervisory authorities—is the vehicle for preserving the integrity of the single market. The Commission says in its documentation that

“it is proposed that voting arrangements within the EBA should be adapted to ensure EBA decision-making structures continue to be balanced and effective and preserve fully the integrity of the Single Market”.

That is absolutely crucial, but we need more far more details about how that will work. The 17 eurozone countries will act en bloc through the ECB in their seats on the EBA, which could represent a permanent majority on all issues, as the Minister explained. The EBA has rule-making powers under qualified majority voting decisions, it mediates between supervisory institutions, and it shares supervisory best practice. There is a real risk of the ECB bloc acting as a permanent caucus to overrule the 10 non-eurozone nation states.