Over on the Spectator coffee house blog, we argue:
In the UK, of course, backbench MPs and others have been quick to condemn any move which would force British taxpayers to cough up cash under the EU’s various bail-out arrangements. Only problem is: the UK may not have a choice. The part of the eurozone bail-out package which Britain could be underwriting to the tune of £6-7 billion - the so-called European Financial Stability Mechanism – is not protected by a UK veto. This means that the mechanism can be triggered by a majority vote amongst EU ministers, and that the UK could be outvoted."We go on to argue:
But let’s not kid ourselves: the UK is hugely exposed should the Irish economy sink, irrespective of how difficult we all find it to prop up a single currency which we knew all along was heading for trouble.Read the full post here.
Leaving aside the need for Ireland to clean up its banking system and the accompanying too-big-to-fail discussion – admittedly two big issues to leave aside – the Treasury is therefore right to look at ways to assist Ireland bilaterally. If anything, bilateral rescue arrangements between similar economies have a far better chance to end happily than messy multilateral bail-outs which come with ideologically fuelled demands (i.e. German or European Commission demands for raising the corporate tax rate which would be economic suicide for Ireland). The joint loan given by the Nordic countries to Iceland when that country hit the wall in 2008 could be one model.
In its own strange way, a UK-Irish deal could also serve to strengthen the UK’s position in Europe. But alas, the terms and conditions for UK taxpayer-backed loans to Ireland no longer rest solely with the British government.