The Irish bail out gets off to a bad start


                     Yesterday was one of those days in the Commons when you need to count the spoons. The two front benches were in complete agreement about the need to lend money to Ireland. They did not seem to mind that we do not know how much, at what interest rate or for what purpose or against what security. The European political classes have decided it is time to make Ireland borrow in public with some strings attached, after months of Irish banks borrowing in private from the European Central Bank. There was no explanation of why now is the time to switch from the one kind of funding to another, or why now is the time to drag the weaknesses of the Euro and some of its member states so prominently into the headlines.

                When the main political parties agree it is often wrong. They all agreed that the Exchange Rate Mechanism would give the UK a “golden scenario”. Instead it gave us the predictable boom and bust. Labour and Conservative agreed about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now they agree that because we export a lot to Ireland it must be in the UK’s national interest to lend Ireland money, without stating the terms or the purpose.

               Numerous MPs raised worries or pressed for some proper information to inform  a decision. Why would the Irish bail out be more successful than the Greek one? Would the Irish bail out be the last Euroland one?  Why does the UK have to help fund a Euroland problem?  Couldn’t the Euro area handle this issue itself? What interest rate will we charge? What will the conditions be? As Ireland will face an IMF type package of spending cuts and tax increases, how will it work as she cannot at the same time devalue, a normal part of an IMF package? If overborrowing is the problem, how does borrowing more help? Why don’t the Irish banks sell more assets?

                   The official soundbites got in the way of sensible exploration of these issues. If you did not support the bail out you were thought to be unrealistic, turning your back on the problem. Parliament in this mood does not do subtlety and cannot examine more than one possible solution.

                            Meanwhile the markets did not suddenly think lending to Ireland a good proposition and pile into Irish bonds. UK and US shares tried to rally then fell. The politicians would be wise to watch the markets more carefully, and listen to what critics of their bail out scheme are saying about the future of the Euro and the need for a better economic policy.  Then they might understand   the force of the argument that troubled Euro countries need a work out more than they need a bail out. The attention should go into how you recreate stable banks and sustainable public finances in countries which cannot compete worldwide easily at current levels of the Euro.  I fear this bail out is not the sudden resolution of the Euro’s problems, nor the complete solution to Ireland’s difficulties.

                       Given that the suffering countries seem to want to stay in the Euro they have to accept it means a sharp reduction in their costs of production to compete alongside Germany. That could be done by a breathtaking leap in productivity, or has to be done by reducing costs generally in  painful way. The UK and US have done it less visibly by devaluation.


  1. Alan
    November 23, 2010

    Although the argument for the loan during the debate in the Commons seemed to be based on us being a ‘good friend’ to Ireland, the argument later, in the media, seemed to be based on the loans being in the UK’s interests. I gather there has to be a vote on the loan in the Commons and it will be interesting to see which argument predominates then. I presume you will be tolerant of the loan if you are convinced it is really in the UK’s interests.

    It now seems that ‘bailing out’ Ireland is not going to end the crisis in the Eurozone; it just moves on to another country. So those who oppose the euro need not fear that giving Ireland a loan will save the euro. It remains in danger.

  2. lifelogic
    November 23, 2010

    You are quite correct. The Irish sticking plaster simply won’t work without addressing the fundamentals of the EURO structure. What is the point of a debate in parliament when they do not even have the details of the interest rates and terms applicable. Are they just debating if they rather like the Irish and perhaps prefer them to the other PIGS slightly.

    The lunatic are in charge and he voters can do nothing.

    1. lifelogic
      November 23, 2010

      When all three parties agree they are very, very often wrong. On the Irish Bail out, on the green agenda, their nonsense energy policy, on the EU, on equality and taxing the responsible to give to the feckless, on employment legislation, most sex/race/age equality legislation, indeed on most regulation in general. If the BBC takes the line too you can be virtually certain its wrong as left wing arts graduates are almost always wrong on everything.

      All it mean is that MP’s think there are more votes, taxes or consultancies fees for them in taking this line than the opposite line that is actually best for most voters and the economy. They are pandering to the uniformed emotions of voters or their own selfish interest.

    2. lifelogic
      November 23, 2010

      Cameron not only forces me to pay for the Irish now I have to pay my staff circa£2000 for the April 29th public holiday.

      What a generous man he is with other people’s money. I don’t suppose I will even get an invite – not sufficiently “green” unlike the “frugal” prince Charles. Perhaps £6 billion loss of UK production at a stroke and perhaps £3B in tax lost.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    November 23, 2010

    Once again, different and much, much lower standards are tolerated in public finances than would ever see the light of day in the private sector. Thinking back to my days as an employee, if I had presented to the board a proposal of uncertain duration, purpose, security or return, my tenure in such a job would have been short indeed. In fact I think they would have asked for my car keys there and then.

    But it’s okay if the government does it?

  4. Duyfken
    November 23, 2010

    Since the UK needs to borrow in order to fund the Irish loan, the cost of securitisation should be a paramount factor. Effectively the UK is the middleman in allowing Ireland to borrow from those who would be reluctant to lend or would only lend at a punitive rate to cover the credit risk. In steps the UK: it borrows at a rate of about 3% – 3.5% and lends to Ireland—at what rate? Is there to be no regard for the acute risk of default by Ireland? Osborne says he is not interested in making a buck out of the situation, but does he intend to donate the insurance cover being provided?

    November 23, 2010

    We are puzzled by the Chancellor’s remarks:
    ‘Ireland is a friend in need’.
    ‘It is in the UK’s interests to provide support’.

    If it were not in the UK’s interests would we deny ‘a friend’?

    If Ireland were not a friend would – could we – deny support?

    The Chancellor appeared evasive to proper questions from both sides of the House.
    Your own question on the support or otherwise for the next EU strugglers was broadcast on the news but not Mr Osborne’s answer.

    If a Euro 70 billion injection/bail out is in prospect what is the value, other than grandstanding, of a further ‘bilateral UK loan’ of reportedly £2bn?
    It is difficult for bystanders to gain a proper view but we shall continue to watch with interest with the assistance of this site.

    We received an email overnight from one of the Germans we met on holiday last week. He fears a bottomless pit and that Frau Merkel has a very challenging hand to play as she straddles a ‘barbed wire fence’. This WW2 baby boomer has a sense of humour and irony to be sure (….to be sure as our friends from Dublin will no doubt add later!)

    We all agree that the common sense solution to all this – withdrawal – will gain momentum.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    November 23, 2010

    The Irish debt problem seems to have been made into a crisis instigated by Germany. Are the Germans considering their own position in the Euro zone and preparing to leave as the ‘solution’ to the continuing problems with sovereign debt amongst many of the countries within that zone?

  7. Rob Hay
    November 23, 2010

    The Conservative front bench is a sad disappointment to all those who voted for them in the hopes of getting sensible, sober and considered decisions that put the UK national interest first.
    They are just another bunch of political hacks that defer to the EU every time. No surprise about Lib Dems but what a come down from Mrs Thatcher for the Tory party.

  8. Jonathan
    November 23, 2010

    Bailouts don’t work.
    How can Labour on one hand bash the bankers and on the other agree to bail out the banks?

    1. sjb
      November 23, 2010

      From 1947-51, the US’s ‘European Recovery Programme’ bailed-out the UK to the tune of $3.3 billion (about $24 billion in today’s money). Well before my time, of course, but didn’t the bail-out kick-start economic recovery followed by record levels of growth?
      Reply: There was also the small matter of the devaluation and the return to peacetime activities after the huge distortion to production caused by the war, and the need for substantial rebuilding following the destruction. These are hardly comparable.

  9. oldtimer
    November 23, 2010

    You say “When the main political parties agree it is often wrong”. I would add another example, to those you listed, of the House of Commons gripped by groupthink – the monstrous Climate Change Act. This Act is adding, and will continue to add, billions to the costs of consumers and businesses alike.

    It is also notable that the proposed loans are not yet done deals. They require a shaky Irish government to get the budget first passed into legislation .

    1. EJT
      November 23, 2010

      It’s a done deal. Even of there are “ambiguities” in the Irish budget r promises that are not then met ( see Greece ), it’ll be good enough for Brussels.

  10. A.Sedgwick
    November 23, 2010

    Helping Ireland yes, helping the Euro no.

    With this Government persuading the Irish to leave the Euro is a complete non starter but that is what the country needs. Otherwise they will be locked into a financial vice of Euroland’s choice with no realistic prospect of paying down/off the debt for many years, if ever.

  11. michael read
    November 23, 2010

    In bailing out Irish banks, we’re really bailing out British banks who are up to their neck in debt from Irish banks.

    Our “friends” are British banks.

    1. EJT
      November 23, 2010

      But why do we have to do it this way ? It would be much more transparent, and much more under our control, and much cheaper, to bail out these banks directly ( if they get into problems due to Irish debt).

  12. norman
    November 23, 2010

    At least the Portuguese one will be smaller, 40 bn euros or so, to which we may only (!) have to contribute a couple of billion.

    Then the real negotiations will start when we move on to to Spain and Italy.

  13. lola
    November 23, 2010

    You, Mr R, even got your contribution onto the Yesterday in Parliament slot on the Today programme. That’s a first.

    Sadly all you say is true, and I am very pleased to note the rather nettled tone in oyur post. Hopefully you and your ‘sensible’ colleagues will seriously lose your temper before long.

    PS. If we really and truly wanted to help Eire we could offer them a way out of the Euro.

  14. APL
    November 23, 2010

    JR: “or why now is the time to drag the weaknesses of the Euro and some of its member states so prominently into the headlines.”

    Simply, this is a ‘beneficial crisis’ and will be / is being used to extend the control of the EU over it’s component states.

    The financial debacle real as it is will mask the extension of control by ’emergency powers’. The EU beast is voracious.

  15. Winston's Black Dog
    November 23, 2010

    Apologies if this question is simplistic or obvious but I am confused. It doesn’t take much!

    As I understand it a second Euro Contingency fund was formed under qualified majority voting, courtesy of the Lisbon Treaty, including countries NOT in the Euro and the UK was in for £7 billion as a result of this. Darling’s last act as chancellor.

    Is the £7 billion Little Georgie is referring to this £7 billion, which he can do nothing about under Lisbon, or an additional £7 billion, given that he keeps wittering about a bilateral agreement, on top?

    In other words are we in for £7 billion or £14 billion?

    If the answer is £14 billion then, presumably, we had some choice re the second £7 billion so why are we saving the Euro when we ourselves are struggling and why the Hiltonian and Coulsonian spin that it is in the British national interest?

    Reply: We do not know how much we will lend and by what routes. The implication was £7bn was near the total, not one part of the package.

    1. norman
      November 23, 2010

      “We do not know how much we will lend and by what routes.”


      At least our MP’s are being kept in the same ignorance as we taxpayers.

  16. Neil Craig
    November 23, 2010

    As you point out devaluation is a normal part of an IMF package. So what happens if the EU can’t lean on the IMF hard enough & they reccomend that Ireland pull out of the Euro & let its new Punts float freely? I think this would almost certainly be the IMF’s remedy if not leant on.

  17. Derek Buxton
    November 23, 2010

    APL most certainly has it correct, a “beneficial crisis” indeed. The loans will never be repaid, Ireland hasn’t got the wherewithal to repay. One crisis will follow another and each time the EU will grab another piece of a country’s sovereignty until we are all governed completely by the EU. That is the stated aim of the beast. At that point we will be in the EUro with all it’s problems….but no one will bail us out, there will be Germany and France doing as they will and we will be finished. So let those in parliament stop the mealy mouthed cowardice and stand up and be counted. Stop all the fawning “Hon. member” they are not, they have no honour who will sell out our Country for a mess of pottage.

    1. Simon
      November 24, 2010

      Even if the Conservative party had got an outright majority it is clear nothing would be different . They can’t blame anything on their Lib Dem coalition partners .

      The Conservatives and Lib Dems have proved that the major parties all put the interests of trans-national-corporations and Europe above those of the electorate .

      I am certain that the public will not get the true results of next years census and only fabricated politically correct figures will be published .

      If in forthcoming elections we the electorate reject all the major parties in favour of independent parties or patriotic ones would the votes even be counted or collated properly ?

  18. JimF
    November 23, 2010

    We seem to have a Parliamentary System which picks over the entrails of earlier mistakes but doesn’t analyse decisions as and when they’re made. So decisions appear to be made on the grounds of emotion and gut feeling (Bomb Baghdad, Save the Banks, etc…). Only later and in hindsight do the type of questions you are asking get asked, and then some lowly Civil Servant is hauled over the coals for not checking whether we were actually lending Sterling rather than Euros etc. It makes me wonder why Treasury Civil Servants, so anxious to clarify detail in some areas, don’t leap in front of politicians before their whims, costing us billions, are broadcast like this without attention to detail.

  19. Norman Dee
    November 23, 2010

    This may be a thick question, but I am not clear, are we proposing to lend Ireland £7billion, or are we lending the Eurozone £7billion to support the Euro / Ireland ?
    The next question is then who is going to pay us back ? Ireland directly or Europe ? I hope it’s Ireland, because I won’t be holding my breath for the (people-ed) in Brussells to pay us back on time or in full.

  20. JimF
    November 23, 2010

    But look on the bright side. The more we print, the more we lend, the more we devalue, the more competitive we become. We could become the new China-with-a-printing-press. Print to lend to devalue to sell to make money to lend to devalue to sell….
    It might just work, providing we have money for the leccy to keep the presses going….. 🙂

    1. Vanessa
      November 23, 2010

      If your idea is right, why don’t we all get our printing presses out and print our own counterfeit money? That is all the government is doing so why is it illegal for us to do it and not the government? It has the same effect !!! Mor inflation.

  21. Kenneth
    November 23, 2010

    Either there should be a EuroA and a EuroB or the poorer countries will bale out in an unorganised way.

    As much as I don’t like it, as Irish debts are in Euros I think we needed to lend money in order to keep good relations. A debtor, especially one who may one day ditch the currency its debts are written in, can be a powerful force indeed.

    I think George Osborne was right in the H of C yesterday. I agree with John Redwood 99% of the time. I guess this is the 1% for me.

  22. Christopher Bell
    November 23, 2010

    Even if one pre-supposes that Britain actually SHOULD have loaned the Irish £7bn at a time when the UK is itself hugely indebted, why on earth didn’t George Osborne simultaneously condition them to either withdraw from the euro or stop undercutting Britain on corporation tax, thereby depriving the UK of inward investment? We missed a similar opportunity when bailing out the UK banks. One minute they were lavishing gratitude on Alistair Darling & Gordon Brown for bailing them out, and the next the likes of RBS were giving the whole country the two fingered salute by refusing to lend to legitimate & worthy businesses/individuals and continuing with lavish director renumeration schemes. Bail-outs should be an opportunity to actually change behaviours of groups which have gotten themselves into crisis to ensure they don’t come knocking on our door again wanting money! History repeats itself with monotonous regularity. The innate interest rate/exchange rate flexibilities of the eurozone will always intensify the evils of recessions, just as joining the ERM made the British recession of the early 90s much worse than need be.

  23. English Pensioner
    November 23, 2010

    But this country hasn’t got any money in the bank, so we are going to have to borrow it. Where is it going to come from? Who are all these people or countries which can lend us billions to lend to Ireland?
    The cause of this country’s present problems is the fact that politicians managed the public finances in a way that no sane person would manage their own finances, simply because they knew that there would be no personal consequences.
    I could imagine what my building society would have said when I had a huge mortgage if I had gone along and asked to borrow some more in order that I could lend it to my daughter so that she might pay of her debts to avoid bankruptcy.
    If parliament doesn’t insist on knowing exactly how much is being lent to Ireland, how it is being funded, the interest rates that we will be paying and those we will be charging, I think that there is something very wrong with our parliament.
    But then on second thoughts, lots of us have felt that way for some time now and are beginning to question if it has any real purpose in life.

  24. Demetrius
    November 23, 2010

    Another fine mess? It is intriguing to see you on the same side as Polly Toynbee, up to a point that is. It is a vivid illustration of the general shambles.

  25. Bob
    November 23, 2010

    From where does the term “bail out” originate?
    Is it connected to the surety that is lodged to release defendents from custody prior to trial?

  26. GJ Wyatt
    November 23, 2010

    Well said JR! Your site is an oasis of sanity.

  27. John McEvoy
    November 23, 2010

    I absolutely agree with John Redwood. The politicians managing our national finances are a clueless bunch of chancers who couldn’t run a whelk stall. Wy aren’t experienced businessmen in these positions? It’s far too dangerous to leave the strategy and decisions to clubby amateurs with hidden agendas – for that is what is taking place.

  28. alan jutson
    November 23, 2010


    Your comments stand out as a beacon of reason and commonsense on this very serious situation.

    Why am I not surprised that MPs voted for a multi billion Pound bailout of Ireland, when the details of any such bailout you quite rightly highlight are not known.

    Who other than MPs would vote on such vague information. It just shows the very poor quality of MPs we have in the house, and is a very good pointer to why we have got into such a financial mess as a Country ourselves.

    When Oh when will MPs get a lesson in economics and mathematics.

    The simple maxim in life is, never lend money to family or friends without first putting down all of the details for repayment in writing.

    The reason:
    As sure as eggs are eggs IT WILL GO WRONG if you do not agree ALL OF the detail before the loan is given, and what were good friends and family members, end up in dispute.

    Simple Question:

    It would appear that RBS has Multi Billions of Pounds of loans at risk in Ireland, I assume this is now a possible toxic debt, which we the taxpayer have or will have already underwritten (or is this a new amount at risk)

    Why do we need to loan Ireland money we do not have, so that the Irish can maybe, maybe not, pay some of the Debts owed to RBS. When surely it would be better to just underwrite (not that I am in favour of underwriting any Banks losses as a Taxpayer) RBS loans should they go bad.

    If we loan Ireland £7 Billion and they do not pay back RBS loans because the Government fails, then we have lost twice over. We have lost the £7 billion given to Ireland and we then still need to underwrite RBS losses on the loans they have in Ireland. We then have to repay the money we have borrowed to give to Ireland.

    I only hope you get much much more air time in the media so that many start to get clued up with the real situation.

    Reply: Many of the loans by RBS are to private individuals and companies in Ireland. The bank will presumably have already made sensible provision for any problems with some of these loans. The state of the nation’s finances do not directly impact on these, other than the impact it will have on Ireland’s growth rate.

    1. Andrew Johnson
      November 23, 2010

      “The bank (RBS) will presumably have already made sensible provision for any problems with some of these loans.”
      Oh the irony Mr. Redwood!

  29. Denis Cooper
    November 23, 2010

    Did any MP raise the possibility that this bail-out, like the others, might be, well, you know, ILLEGAL under the EU treaties?

    Or were those “no bail-out” clauses which were originally put into the Maastricht Treaty, and which are still in the present treaties, never intended to be taken seriously?

    In which case, why should we take seriously anything else in the EU treaties, as they are now or as they might be amended in the future?

    Can’t we just say: “Oh, I know that technically we have a treaty obligation to pay money into the EU budget … but look, don’t worry about it, we can disregard that just as we disregarded the “no bail-out” clauses … ”

    (I expect that somebody will remind me about that massive volcanic eruption in Galway, which fully justifies the bail-out under Article 122.2 TFEU.)

  30. Iain Gill
    November 23, 2010

    go on give us a post on the immigrations statements in the commons today?

    1. alan jutson
      November 23, 2010

      Ian Gill

      Yes, another bloody fine mess.

      Again all fudge and broken promises.

  31. simple soul
    November 23, 2010

    Somebody please tell me, has it been confirmed that are we having to borrow this money to lend to Ireland? Until a few days ago the story was that there was no money for anything because there was no money left and we were heavily over-borrowed. One does wonder where the extra billions have sudenly been conjured up from.

    Still seeking clarification, I would like to know how far our UK banks are getting off scott free. All year we have been hearing how much stronger the capital ratios, i.e. reserves, of our banks have become, the better to withstand calamities. Now a calamity has actually arrived – and the banks are once again begging for assistance. Before they get any, we need to know what provision they are making for Irish losses and bad debts out of their own resources, before we consider helping out with a penny.

    Reply: Yes, all the money for Ireland will be borrowed by the UK. On this occasion we are not being asked to put more money into our banks, but into Ireland’s banks.

    1. APL
      November 24, 2010

      Simple Soul: “Somebody please tell me, has it been confirmed that are we having to borrow this money to lend to Ireland?”

      The government gets money in one of two ways. Either through taxes in which case we the tax payer get to pay today, or through borrowing, in which case we the tax payer get to pay tomorrow too.

      Government expenditure in any given year is something like twice* the amount raised through taxes – which should give you an idea of what will happen when they find their lending choked off should the UK find itself in the same boat as Greece and no longer considered a safe bet to lend to.

      Today, £2 to spend, tomorrow £1

      * I am guessing on that one.

      Given that we are running a deficit I don’t think the UK government has £7 billion loose change lying around. So it is added to our debt and you or your children will be paying down the debt for the rest of your lives. I imagine the Irish people will be very grateful.

      Meanwhile, that debt includes the salary paid to MPs and includes their generous tax funded very cushy index linked pension provision.

      Nice work if you can get it!

    2. rose
      November 24, 2010

      So why don’t we leave it to our banks then to save the Irish banks they have recklessly lent to? Once again we seem to be over-protecting the City.

  32. Vanessa
    November 23, 2010

    Why, when a country is in debt is it OK to throw more debt at them? It is the same as a household which is up to its neck in credit card borrowing being given more credit – eventually the family will be in the bankruptcy courts because they are unable to pay the debt, let alone the interest on that debt. Why is it any different for a country and why is this idiotic conservative coalition adding to the stupidity? Ireland has said it does not need the money and has taken much of the distasteful medicine anyway so why is the EU so intent on making their situation worse? Do our politicians have any brains? it seems not!

  33. Richard1
    November 24, 2010

    I was concerned to hear George Osborne say on the radio that he had decided against forcing the banks to restructure creditors – force them to take a ‘haircut’ – as he has been advised that this would lead to contagion and the risk of systemic failure. It should be pointed out that much of the advice which the Treasury receives comes from organisations, and in particular from individuals, whose own circumstances make it impossible for them to give objective and independent advice. e.g. no senior employee of a major investment bank – who might own €millions of bank shares – will advise a government to go down the road of forcing bank restructurings. The equity would (rightly) take the first loss with the huge dilution that would follow. MPs should ask Treasury ministers to be clear about who is advising them, what the advice is, and should think about whether that advice is objective. Mr Brown was advised in the £75bn bank capital injection of Autumn 2008 by a number of individuals who (may have -ed – no names or evidence supplied)owned pesonally £10 millions of bank shares. Of course they would suggest a capital injection rather than a restructuring.

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