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Volume 549: debated on Tuesday 4 September 2012

It is in the interests of the United Kingdom and the global economy for the eurozone countries to take action to restore public finances, strengthen the banking system and improve competitiveness.

Fortunately, under this Government the United Kingdom will never be part of the eurozone, but the economic crisis is nevertheless having a dampening effect on UK economic growth. What strategy is the Foreign Office adopting to persuade the eurozone leaders to stop kicking the can down the road and find some solutions that will help the UK economy?

We are certainly continuing to support the efforts that eurozone Governments are taking to make their currency zone more stable and sustainable than it is at present, but we are also continuing to emphasise at every EU meeting that Europe’s competitiveness depends in the end on deepening the single market, improving free trade with the rest of the world, and cutting red tape and regulatory burdens on business.

I am one of those who happen to believe that the eurozone is not long for this world. Is the Foreign Office looking seriously at what Europe might look like after the eurozone, and is it not possible that international relations within Europe will be improved once the tensions of the eurozone are gone?

We make all sorts of contingency plans for all sorts of contingencies, as the hon. Gentleman would expect, but I say this to him: while I believe the United Kingdom is much better off outside the eurozone, those 17 countries have taken democratic sovereign-national decisions to form this currency union, and we who support national independence and the right of nations to determine their own futures should respect those decisions.

Is it not the role of Government to say what would be best for the whole of Europe, and is not what would be best for the whole of Europe an orderly break-up of the euro?

The best thing for the future of Europe would be for Europe to start to get to grips with the shift in global economic power to Asia and Latin America that is taking place as we speak, and to focus on making it easier for European businesses to compete through enlarging and deepening the single market, through encouraging free trade with other parts of the world and through cutting the red tape that holds European businesses back compared with those in Asia and south America.

I remind Government Members that it was the previous Labour Government who kept this country out of the euro. There has been recent speculation in the German press that the German Chancellor will push for a new treaty to create closer fiscal and political union in the eurozone. What is the position of the Government on this proposal, and what discussions have the Minister and his colleagues had with their German counterparts about this proposal?

There are all sorts of exciting media reports, but there are no proposals for treaty change on the table at present. I simply remind the hon. Lady, however, that while the Government parties have supported giving the British people the final say over any proposal from any Government to join the euro, her party leader has said that securing the objective of Britain joining the euro will require only his remaining as Prime Minister for long enough.