NAFTA or Euroland?
United States Senator Phil Gramm has stirred up a hornet’s nest. On a recent visit to the United Kingdom to tap growing support for Britain casting off the EU in order to join the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (nafta), Senator Gramm warned that Britain would lose its self-governance if it were to officially adopt the EU currency, the euro.
Speaking at the Center for Policy Studies (founded by Margaret Thatcher in 1974), he said, “We had a special relationship with Britain before there was an EU. When I think about our relationship with Britain, I don’t think about the EU” (London Daily Telegraph, July 5).
As chairman of the powerful and influential Senate Committee on International Trade, Mr. Gramm has for some years felt that Britain would be better off joining Canada and Mexico in the nafta partnership. After a long slumber, Britain is waking up to the realization that its very sovereignty is in peril should it accept the euro as the official national currency and dump the beloved pound sterling.
A groundswell of UK support for rekindling the “special relationship” with the U.S. has come from senior Tories who oppose European integration, and from Canadian-born, British-based media mogul Conrad Black.
Mr. Gramm, backed by significant U.S. Republican support, believes that the EU is on the road to becoming the master of global free trade. He sees that if Britain were to join Mexico and Canada in nafta, they would provide a suitable counterweight to the EU trading giant. To achieve this, Britain would have to pull out of the EU and join Norway and Switzerland as non-member trading countries.
To date, half of the UK’s inward investment comes from the United States. Euro-skeptics are calling for the U.S. to up the ante and revive even closer economic ties, before Britain becomes “EUK.”
The euro-or-nafta question will become an increasingly hot topic in the UK. With the latest EU treaty scheduled for signing in Nice, France, later this year, Britain will have to make some hard decisions.
The present government has ushered in unprecedented change in Britain. After carving up the UK by giving semi-autonomy to Scotland and Wales, the administration has sliced and diced Britain into district upon district in accordance with EU policy, which decentralizes national power and hands it over on a silver platter to the EU headquarters in Brussels.
With European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy working hard to change EU law to enable all decisions on trade policy to be made based on a majority vote by the European Council of Ministers, Britons face the prospect of devolving themselves into a mere state within Euroland.
Soon Britain will not be able to continue sitting on the fence, hiding behind its coveted euro opt-out clauses and veto powers which may disappear with the signing of the treaty of Nice. Britain will have to decide whether to be in or out.