Should the UK become a member of the European Monetary Union?

Term Paper, 2001

14 Pages, Grade: 1.7 (A-)



Background of EMU and current situation of the UK

Is Europe an Optimum Currency Area (OCA) and which role does the UK play?

What makes UK into a periphery country?

Pros and Cons
Arguments for joining EMU
Arguments against joining EMU




Background of EMU and current situation of the UK

Since 1952 when the European Coal and Steel Community was founded the face of Europe has changed a lot. Barriers have been removed to enable goods, services, investment and people to move freely within the Community and politicians worked hard to get closer to the ideal of a political and economical united Europe. In two months the next major step will be taken by 12 nations of the European Union: The EURO will replace the old currencies. But Britain, although a member of the European Union, will not participate in Euro-zone in the foreseeable future.

In 1991 the Maastricht Treaty (Treaty on European Union) was signed in order to extend the Treaty of Rome (1957). One part of this Treaty was the formation of an economic and monetary union (EMU). Therefore the European Central Bank (ECB) was established and a new currency – the ECU, today called Euro. The ECB shall replace the national central banks and its “primary objective is to maintain a low and stable rate of price inflation for the euro currency."1)

Although Britain had joined the exchange rate system (ERS), the so called “parity grid” of the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1990 and had also signed the Maastricht Treaty it was forced to leave the EMS on Wednesday, 16 September 1992, known as “Black Wednesday”. Sterling had dropped below the “floor” of the grid and all measures to support the currency failed.

The UK gained opt-outs from stage 3 of EMU during the Maastricht conference, which means: “UK shall notify the council whether it intends to move to the third stage, and that unless it does, it will be under no obligation to do so.”2) Now, as the EMU comes closer the subject presses hard on the Blair-government but a date for the planned referendum, which shall bring a decision, is still not stated.

Is Europe an Optimum Currency Area (OCA) and which role does the UK play?

According to Mundell (1961) “an optimum currency area is an economic unit composed of regions affected symmetrically by disturbances and between which labour and other factors of production flow freely”. Artis (2000) states, “the costs of monetary union consist in resigning the possibility of using an independent monetary policy, and appropriate exchange rate changes, to deal with shocks that are asymmetric between the potential partner countries. This can be mitigated if the partners agree on a federal fiscal arrangement that cushions asymmetric shocks, if labour mobility between the partners is sufficiently high, or indeed if internal labour market flexibility is great enough.”

So the first criterion, the federal fiscal arrangement, is not featured in EU and although barriers for people have been removed, which allows employees to work in any member country, labour mobility is still quite low. On the other hand trade integration (the amount of intra-EU trade as a percentage of GDP) between the partner countries is quite high (appendix 1) and UK’s integration figures are even higher than those of Germany and France, while UK’s trade intensity (ratio of intra-EU to total trade) is just slightly lower than EU average.3)

Another criterion is the effect of supply and demand shocks. Eichengreen (1998) figures out that supply shocks will affect the “core countries” of the EU – Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark – less than the countries of the periphery – UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece (appendix 2). Demand shocks will also hit the periphery stronger than the core. According to Eichengreen (1998) the latter “come much closer than the Community as a whole to representing a workable union along American lines”. But he also supposes that “as market structures grow more similar across European countries, the incidence and correlation of supply disturbances should also become more similar” within the EU.

What makes UK into a periphery country?

There are several differences between the UK and the core European countries, which are often considered as arguments against joining EMU:

- Artis and Zhang (1997) state that the UK “business cycle was more closely linked to the US cycle than to the German one and that the ERM period had served to strengthen the appearance of a “European” business cycle affiliation in the case of most countries”4) (appendix 3)
- “Britain's rates of unemployment, public sector spending and taxation levels are markedly lower than most euro countries”5)
- Scobie (1998) argues that “ the British financial system is very different from that prevailing on the Continent” as the UK has a large proportion of households respectively businesses who have:
- floating-rate mortgages
- floating-rate overdrafts

while in most European countries mortgages and overdrafts are often fixed for a certain period. Also interest rates historically have been high and volatile in the UK, which differs completely from ECB’s aims.


1) Bradley and Whittaker (2000)

2) Giordano and Persaud (1998)

3) Artis (2000)

4) Artis (2000)


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Should the UK become a member of the European Monetary Union?
Oxford Brookes University  (School of Business)
Business Environment UK
1.7 (A-)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
428 KB
Critical evaluation of the pros and cons of this decision for the UK's economy and business environment.
European Monetary Union; UK; Euro
Quote paper
Helen Mueller (Author), 2001, Should the UK become a member of the European Monetary Union?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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