Belfast Telegraph

We're caught in crossfire as battle rages

By Hamish McRae

Disruption in Europe, any form of disruption, is bad for the UK economy. Uncertainty in financial markets is bad for the UK too.

So what has been happening across the Channel has in the short term become the greatest single threat to what has been at best a disappointingly weak recovery. True, there are some modest offsets - for example, the flood of money seeking a safe haven from the storm enveloping the euro and being invested in British government securities.

That has helped drive down the interest rate on 10-year gilts to below 1.9%, the lowest in our history.

It has also brought wealth from rich Europeans into the British property market.

But these gains are more than offset by the fact that the eurozone remains the UK's largest single export market and that any form of uncertainty makes companies based in the UK more cautious about hiring and investment plans. So we should resist any inclinations towards schadenfreude. The UK may not be in the frontline of the battle to save the euro but we are already being caught in the crossfire.

What happens here in the months ahead depends very much on what happens in Europe, and that is really wide open. It is possible, to take one extreme, that the present pressures will be contained and that no countries will leave the eurozone ever. It is possible, at the other extreme, that there will be no euro by Christmas.

Extreme outcomes are by their nature unlikely, but the financial crisis of the past four years has taught us that nothing should be excluded.

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