Speeches and releases from various European Central Bank officials don’t make the best summer reading, that’s for sure. But it might be a good idea to go through a couple of recent ones, which give a hint of what the future might bring.
If Britain goes ahead and leaves the European Union in March next year as a consequence of the referendum held in June 2016, the positives of such a move would be greater for the EU than for the UK.
Beyond the depressing, backward-looking policies that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as US president seem to have brought, there is a ray of hope.
People elsewhere in Europe, seeing the first ugly consequences of populism, might find enough motivation to go to the polls in elections just to try to keep populists out of government. I am talking about the decent people who are tired of politicians but aren’t seduced by the populists’ siren calls.
Among the analysts and politicians criticising the single European currency, perhaps the most numerous (and vocal) come from Britain.
This should be no surprise: the UK itself is a currency union, and those working within it should know a thing or two about why such a regime does not really work.
“You see, no hope’s a dangerous thing.”
— W.A.S.P. “My Tortured Eyes”
Last year’s Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S. shook the world out of complacency and sent analysts and experts into a frenzy of attempts to explain what was behind these two events.
For Trump’s election there is the partial explanation of the Russian intervention. For Brexit, the fact that the tabloid newspapers have, for years, portrayed Eastern Europeans as benefit scroungers who at the same time “steal” jobs from the British may have played a role.
But what about the rest of Europe?
This is going to be a crucial year for the European Union. There are more and more voices predicting its disintegration. With the political events that are ahead, it’s not a possibility that should be taken lightly.
Politics are back in play in most of Europe, and this doesn’t bode well for central bankers. Even the almighty European Central Bank had a moment of weakness last week, when it broadcast a message so complicated to markets that it should not be surprised it fell wide of the mark.
After the vote by the British people to leave the European Union, we keep waiting for the adults to take control of the situation. If they did, this whole process would be much easier. They could sit down and discuss ways to proceed with the separation with minimum damage for both sides.
“I take the advisory point” about the UK’s EU referendum. These were the words spoken by Nigel Farage in a BBC interview over the weekend. He added that he wants to see constitutional changes in Britain that would make all referendums binding.
The best part of this statement, of course, is the fact that the man who predicted riots on the streets if the government ignores the referendum’s result was forced to admit publicly that the government, under current legislation, does not have to act on the plebiscite.
Some eight years ago, while visiting Paris with a friend, a couple of young Parisians asked us where we lived. “Oh, London, so cool!” was their reaction. Understandably, I felt smug. Would these young people say the same thing today?