28 Sep 2011
William Hague has branded the eurozone a “burning building with no exits” amid frantic efforts to control the sovereign debt crisis.
The Foreign Secretary said he believed Germans would have to subsidise weaker members such as Greece for “the rest of their lifetimes”.
Delivering the starkest comments so far by a senior British minister, Mr Hague also claimed the single currency was set to become an “historical monument to collective folly”.
The intervention emerged as the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, warned that the EU faced its “greatest challenge”.
However, Mr Barroso insisted Greece would remain in the eurozone despite fears that it will default on huge debts.
Interviewed for The Spectator magazine, Mr Hague referred to a remark he made as Tory leader in 1998 while running a campaign to ‘Keep the Pound’.
“I described the euro as a burning building with no exits and so it has proved for some of the countries in it. But there are no exits,” he said.
He went on: “You can have burning buildings where they manage to put out the fire or control it or get more room or something. I might take the analogy too far but the euro wasn’t built with exits so it is very difficult to leave it.”
Mr Hague warned that eurozone countries had to take difficult choices, without exchange rate flexibility to ease the pain.
He suggested that “Greeks, or Italians or Portuguese have to accept some very big changes in what happens in their country, even bigger than if they weren’t in the euro, and Germans will have to accept that they are going to subsidise those countries for a long time to come really, for the rest of their lifetimes”.