By Tim Montgomerie
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In a wide-ranging interview Sir John Major told Andrew Marr that it was important that Greece defaulted as quickly as possible. The Euro had got into terrible difficulties because the Maaastricht criteria had been ignored, he said: (1) There was inadequate convergence before the Euro was created as the Treaty had required and (2) because the Commission didn't take action in the single currency's early days – when France and Germany had breached their borrowing limits – the zone became riddled with ill-discipline.
He predicted that the EU had "fundamentally changed" because of member states' flouting of the Maastricht criteria and because of the movement to an "unsafe" Eurozone. We would now see, the former Prime Minister predicted, what he and Douglas Hurd had advocated in the 1990s. Europe would follow a model of "variable geometry" with different member states working at different levels. He predicted that Eurozone members would seek their own Treaty and gradually forge fiscal union characterised by tax harmonisation and budgetary control. This, he said, was an opportunity for a looser union and for the UK to repatriate control over parts of employment law, notably the Working Time Directive; financial services regulation; and control of Britain's fishing industry. EU leaders had to realise, he continued, that 27 member states could not operate in the same unified way as when there were much fewer members.
Sir John Major also backed George Osborne on Quantitative Easing (as Ruth Lea does in her ConservativeHome column today) but warned that rapid tightening of banks' capital asset ratios was limiting their ability to finance business expansion.
Andrew Marr didn't ask Sir John if he thought Edwina Currie was doing well on Strictly Come Dancing.