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EU Economic Conditions

Volume 541: debated on Tuesday 28 February 2012

5. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his Department of economic conditions in the EU. (96691)

The agreement on a second rescue package for Greece last week is encouraging for Greece and the European economy. The crisis in the eurozone is having a chilling effect on growth across Europe. The Government are arguing vigorously for EU action to promote growth by deepening the single market, boosting trade and cutting red tape.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what his Department is doing to improve the economic conditions right here in Britain? Are we using our global network of embassies and business contacts to promote British exports, especially those of small companies?

Yes, we absolutely are. The prosperity of the country is one of our key objectives. My hon. Friend may have noticed that our exports to India, Turkey, Brazil and other emerging economies went up sharply in 2011. That is very important, given that the eurozone economy is flat and that our exports have declined. The Foreign Office is highly active in helping businesses, including small businesses, to seek out new export markets.

Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on the preparations that are being made in the event of a default by the Greek Government and the possible collapse of the euro?

We have contingency plans for many eventualities in the world, and I ensure that they are fully up to date. The right hon. Gentleman will understand why I do not go into more detail about those plans, because doing so can create a greater expectation that they are going to happen, but we are prepared for any eventuality.

19. I suggest that EU politicians are failing to recognise that the eurozone is a dead man walking. Given the effective suspension of democracy in at least two countries and the deepening democratic deficit across the eurozone, as politicians break the rules in order to save the euro and their dream of political union, why is Britain supporting the anti-democratic zeal of those politicians as they make worse this self-made crisis? (96708)

To put it in a slightly more balanced way, I have pointed out for many years that one of the disadvantages of the euro is the loss of national sovereign decision making to the countries concerned. However, there is one flaw in my hon. Friend’s argument, which is that it is very clear that not only the representatives but, at the moment, the people of Greece choose to try to stay in the euro. That is the democratic choice that they are making, and we should support them in it if that is their choice.

The European Union is our biggest trading partner, and a resolution to the eurozone crisis is clearly in our national interest. Given that our bilateral relationship with France is central to that, why is it being reported that the Prime Minister has refused to meet one of the leading presidential candidates, François Hollande, when he visits London tomorrow?

Yes, the bilateral relationship with France is of great importance, and it is true that our co-operation, particularly on foreign and security policy, is the closest that it has been at any time since the second world war. Relations with France are very good and very close. Of course, the Prime Minister sometimes meets opposition leaders and sometimes does not, but I am not aware of governmental leaders across Europe taking a different approach from his.