CBI pins colours to the mast, but EMU is still in chaos

It will come as welcome news to all those in the process industry who have been pressing for the UK to join EMU (News Analysis May, June) that the Confederation of British Industry is to add its weight to the debate. But hold on. The CBI has backed away from calling for sterling to participate […]

It will come as welcome news to all those in the process industry who have been pressing for the UK to join EMU (News Analysis May, June) that the Confederation of British Industry is to add its weight to the debate.

But hold on. The CBI has backed away from calling for sterling to participate from the outset, in 1999. The compromise has brought a sigh of relief from ministers who had feared industry bosses would urge membership in the first round, cutting across government policy.

Membership continues to be a bone of contention throughout Europe, it being Germany’s turn to take centre stage, threatening to stall unity within the EC. The latter is a goal which many in the process industries and manufacturing generally see as vital to their continuing prosperity.

It was the increasingly bitter row within Germany’s governing coalition, between chancellor Helmut Kohl and Edmund Stoiber, the premier of Bavaria, that was to raise the temperature of the debate. It was, however, to prove only a sideline to the Europe-wide disaffection with monetary union.

Member states have been forced to confront their own individual domestic demons. Britain, for example, has singled out flagging exports as the biggest single barrier to growth.

The inability to reach agreement on a single currency raises a singularly fundamental spectre: Are the European economies simply too inflexible to adjust to the demands of monetary union? And is it just a dangerously premature concept, promoted blindly in the belief that it could secure a political unity that has thus far eluded the EU?