The lies about the EU economy and the Credit Crunch

Today we will learn whether the Euroland economy is already in decline, or whether its growth has merely slowed to a standstill. The briefing in advance of the figures implies we are being readied for bad news.

Over the last year we have heard a great deal from the Uk government and from the supine parts of the media about a US recession, and how the world problems emanate from across the Atlantic. We often have to hear lectures about the importance of the EU to our economy, and even about the superiority of the EU model. If any of this were true we should by now be saying “Thank heavens we are so dependent on the EU and not on the US, for we can ignore recessionary winds from across the Atlantic”. Instead the Bank of England Governor had to warn yesterday that the UK authorities have been misleading us for some time about the likely growth rate in the UK this year and next. He himself did not even rule out a recession here in the UK. Today we will learn that the motor some want us to hitch to more completely, the Euroland economy, is once again performing less well than the US.

The truth about our economic relationships with the US and the EU is more complex than the idiot soundbite that we depend for 3 million jobs on the EU owing to more than half our trade being with the EU. It always left open the question of what about the 90% of our jobs that on their own admission do not rely on the EU, wrongly implied jobs in exports to the EU would not exist if more people had voted No in 1975, and ignored the trade in services and flows of investment and interest where the EU proportion is much lower than the 50% ish share they have of our trade in physical goods. The relationships you need to trade in services are often deeper and longer term than the relationship to buy manufactures, and tend to be with fellow English speaking countries with common law systems for obvious reasons. A British legal or accountancy firm is more likely to do work in the US or Australia than in Austria or Germany.

The current situation also shows how wrong the spin has been about the sources of our present discontent. The so called US made Credit Crunch is a credit crunch in many parts of the world where Central Banks and Regulators have made similar mistakes to the US, but where they made their own. Northern Rock did not go down because it had US sub prime mortgages, or because the US banking regulators fell down on the job. It went down with North eastern UK mortgages, under the supervision of the UK authorities. Similarly, the Euroland economy is slowing owing to stupid policies of high tax, high spend, high regulation and poor Central banking in Europe, not because of the mistakes made by the Fed.

So today we will learn if the spin is right that whilst the US economy continues to grow despite the endless declarations of a US recession by all those US haters out there, Euroland either is now going backwards or is on the edge of declines in output. In which case the UK strategy under this government of hitching us more firmly to the EU governmental bandwagon is doubly foolish, being bad economics as well as bad politics.

Not that this gap in performance between the US and EU economies is anything new or a surprise. The EU is a consistent underperformer. As far as I am concerned – and as far as many Labour MPs claim – the prime aim of our economic policies in the UK should be to give as many people as possible an opportunity to earn and enjoy more income. In the decade 1987 to 1996 the US economy grew by 32.9%, compared with the EU economies growing 11%. In the 20 years to 2006 the US grew by an impressive 82.5%, despite being richer than the EU to start with, whilst the EU limped to just 41.6% growth.

Over the long term, as well as over the short term, the US economy has outperformed the EU one by a wide margin, growing twice as quickly for 20 years! Looking at individual years the US outperformed in 16 of the last 20, and even in the two years of the hi tec collapse which pro Europeans enjoyed as an opportunity to condemn the US model, the US economy still did not have a down year.

The government needs to amend its rhetoric. This is not a downturn made in the USA or a Credit Crunch unique to Wall Street. A series of problems have emerged in the way central Banks, governments and banking regulators have done their job in most major markets. The UK has a bad version of the problem, with its own mistakes at home adding to the gloom. The Governor yesterday was right to warn the government not to relax its controls over public borrowing, but he will not be heeded. The UK government is determined to make it worse by borrowing even more. Meanwhile, the cavalry that are meant to arrive from the EU to help us in time of need have lost their horses and will not be riding to our aid. Their economies are already deeper in the mire than the American.

Recovering the EU economies – a modest proposal

All the main EU economies are slowing down, and some are already well into property collapses and Credit crunch. Whilst the UK is the worst placed of the majors thanks to heavy government indebtedness as well as private sector borrowing levels, they all need some relief from rising costs and falling demand.

The EU could help. I offer this challenge to it. It should, for the next two years, agree to no more legislation of any kind which imposes more costs and burdens on us. It should give the committees and officials drafting it all a couple of years off, and not replace them as and when they retire or leave for other reasons.

The businesses of Europe would be mightily relieved if they no longer had to keep up with the torrent of legislation coming from Brussels, and could concentrate on more important things to combat the Credit Crunch.