Blink and you’d have missed it. The London edition of the FT didn’t see fit to report it. But a group of European Ministers met in London yesterday, hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister no less, to talk about economic growth. But where was Germany? And France. And Italy. And Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria for that matter.
Reading the press release of this meeting on the BIS website, which I confess I stumbled across while looking for something else, it’s hard to be clear exactly what the meeting was for. BIS says its aim was “to build on recent European Council agreements regarding the creation of a fully-functioning digital single market, reducing the regulatory burden and maximising the potential of EU services.” So it was a digital summit? Does that mean that the countries listed above have no interest in a digital single market?
Or was there another agenda at work?
The headline of the BIS press release was “Likeminded European Ministers meet to talk about growth”. Likeminded. That sounds like a clue. The press release stated:
“The group consisted of Ministers from Member States that have expressed support for the EU growth agenda and its focus on the single market, trade, innovation and reducing regulatory burdens.”
A quote from the Business Minister, Ed Davey, said:
“Today’s meeting confirms how an increasing number of Member States share Britain’s view on the need for an ambitious Europe wide growth agenda, and how we are co-operating more closely than ever.”
Now I’m all in favour of an ambitious Europe wide growth agenda. That’s why I’d have preferred Germany (growth of 3.6% in 2010), as well as Europe’s major economies, to have been there. Germany is powering forward and I, for one, would like the UK to emulate its success. The trouble is, Germany hasn’t deregulated its way to growth. It has achieved this growth through its long-term investment in skills, innovation and world beating industries. It is supported by its Social Market Economy, underpinning fairness for working people, rather than stripping away rights for those at work.
No wonder Germany wasn’t here. Most Germans I know speak impeccable English. But they don’t speak the language of our Government.