By Paul Goodman
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The Foreign Secretary spoke those words at the Alliance of European Conservative and Reformist Group conference in London earlier today. I will write more about the event tomorrow, but it's worth flagging up William Hague's speech to the event immediately – both because of that statement about savings and his advice to other centre-right European parties about the Euro.
The suggestion by the Foreign Secretary that foreign banks may seize up or go bust was the strongest warning I've seen from a Government Minister about the possible effects of the Eurozone crisis. Hague wasn't claiming that British banks are in the front line, but they aren't immune from the travails of those elsewhere, and his words were clearly writing on the wall.
The Foreign Secretary also repeated the Government's line about the necessity of "further economic and fiscal integration" within the Eurozone, and warned against "a disorderly breakup of the Eurozone". He said that this "would be deeply damaging to the world economy and its potential consequences should not be underestimated".
The context of the quote I've highlighted was as follows:
"The prosperity of our closest friends and neighbours is at risk, not to mention a considerable part of our own.The jobs and the life savings of tens of millions of people in Europe may be at stake. A disorderly breakup of the Eurozone would be deeply damaging to the world economy and its potential consequences should not be underestimated."
The Foreign Secretary also found a way of offering other countries advice about the Euro:
"It is not my place to tell other countries what choices they should make on Euro membership…It is true that all EU Members States bar Britain and Denmark are committed by Treaty to join the Euro. It is also the case that there is absolutely no obligatory timetable or deadline for any country not in the Euro to join it, an important point."
This was a significant occasion at which to make these observations, since all EU member states other than those two are committed in principle to joining the Euro – and politicians from such countries are of course members of the European and Reformist Group. Hague's message in effect was: the Euro – don't all rush.
Hague's words on Eurozone breakup could be read to imply that an orderly breakup of the Eurozone might be "deeply damaging", were it not for his repetition of the Government view on fiscal and economic integration. He said that "to an extent national budgets will become a matter of common concern and fiscal burdens cannot solely be left to individual member states".
He said that "it is an achievement worth some celebration that we at last have established an alliance of centre and centre-right political parties that does not believe in a federal Europe but in a Europe of nation states working together. Our message that there is an alternative to federalism has never been more important that now and has never been proved more correct than now."