The euro fell briefly below $1.19 yesterday. There is nothing surprising or exceptional about that, the common currency has been drifting steadily downwards against the dollar for a number of, by-now, pretty well known reasons – better economic performance in the US, a growing interest rate differential between the ECB and the Fed, political issues following the referendum noes, and an incapacity to decide what to do with the SGP. Yesterday however, an apparently new element was introduced: Christian Noyer, and his appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly.
That this should have caused a stir surprises me. Christian Noyer is Governor of the French national bank (and not simply, as much of the press report, an ECB governing council member). It is therefore perfectly logical that when asked whether any country could leave the eurozone, he should reply in the affirmative. EU member states are, as Noyer says, still sovereign nations. He would therefore have been lying to answer ‘no, it is impossible’. Curiously, the other part of M. Noyer’s recorded testimony, that any exit would put in question continued membership of the EU is far more debateable, yet seems to have attracted far less attention.
Membership of a currency union is (or should be) an economic, not a political decision. Decisions on entry or exit should therefore be taken on economic grounds, and discussions of the issues involved should be possible without an atmosphere of emotional hysteria. Of course, if your currency falls simply because someone states the obvious (I mean the information content *is* zero), then this may indicate that there is a rather deeper problem knocking around somewhere or other.
“People will tell you next that Europe is not in a crisis,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who holds the EU presidency, said after a two-day summit ended in acrimony. “It is in a deep crisis.”
As someone who is ‘crisis prone’ I would have imagined I would share that feeling. Somehow I don’t.
Bloomberg’s Mathew Lynn has been pretty consistently skeptical about the workability of the common currency. Personally I find it difficult to disagree with the following:
“The euro, the common currency shared by 12 EU nations, will weaken considerably as Europe enters a long period of political instability. Recriminations from the collapse of the constitution will be played out over months, not days.
And the economics of integration that have dominated Europe for the last 30 years have come to an end. Forget convergence. The big trend in the next few years will be Europe’s economies going their own way, not with each other. In time, even the euro’s survival might be called into question.
“The initial reaction might be relatively muted because the markets had already discounted `no’ votes in both countries,” said Stuart Thomson, a fixed-income strategist at Charles Stanley Sutherlands in Edinburgh. “What it does do is put a stop to any thoughts of fiscal integration, because that was really the next step of the process. Without that, it is difficult to see what is underpinning the euro.””
In a post which appeared earlier this week Tobias asks us whether, given some of the possible consequences of a French “non”, it might not be reasonable to ‘scare’ voters a little by spelling out some of the potential fallout which might follow a French rejection of the Constitution Treaty.
Perhaps the phrasing is unfortunate, but undoubtedly voters in Eurozone countries need to think long and hard about one especially sensitive area of impact: the future of the euro itself. Continue reading →