Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey took to Twitter over the weekend.
The self-styled “Lady for Leave” was sharing a tweet from Brexit Central, an account with over 50,000 followers, that stated “After 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro”.
Ms McVey added her own caption “Are the public aware of this? And the many other things the EU has planned for its member states after 2020? #trust #WatchOut”.
But it’s not true that all EU member states will have to join the euro after 2020.
Indeed, just hours later, Ms McVey and Brexit Central had deleted their tweets – with the Tatton MP appearing to acknowledge some “don’t agree with the article I posted”.
But not before the original claims had been shared thousands of times. Let’s take a look.
Where does the claim come from?
Brexit Central’s tweet was based on a 2014 Telegraph article by Andrew Lilico, a pro-Brexit economist and Fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs.
His analysis predicted that as the countries of the Eurozone moved ever closer, the UK would be left out in the cold.
Mr Lilico wrote: “at some point, perhaps shortly after 2020, with the Eurozone constituted as a confederate Single European State and wanting to use the institution of the EU as its institutions […] the residual nugatory non-Eurozone EU will have to be wound up.”
He suggested that it “seems highly unlikely” that there would be any non-euro members of the EU by 2020, “given the existential economic necessity of the Eurozone forming into a deeper political union”.
What does it mean?
Mr Lilico’s article was headlined: “After 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro”. Brexit Central’s tweet used the same language. It’s not clear whether Mr Lilico would have chosen the headline himself — that role often falls to newspaper sub-editors.
In either case, what those words were trying to encapsulate was Mr Lilico’s prediction that economic and political pressures will make it hard — he argued, impossible — to be a member of the EU without joining the euro after 2020.
But, five years after publication, those words have taken on a different meaning.
We’re now on track to actually leave the EU. And commentators like Brexit Central and Esther McVey are keen to do so on schedule this month, rather than delaying our departure as has been threatened.
In that context, you’d be forgiven for thinking the phrase “after 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro” means that if the UK stays part of the EU for much longer, we’ll be legally compelled to join the single currency. In fact, the headline was expressing a prediction, now five years old, about the likely turn of events. It was not a statement of legal fact.
Would the UK be forced to join the euro if we stayed in the EU after 2020?
No. Member states are usually required to join the euro, but the European Commission is clear that Denmark and the UK are exempt.
This is explicitly spelled out in EU law: “Unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt the euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so”.
Esther McVey and Brexit Central shared an article this weekend titled “After 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro”. Both tweets have since been deleted.
The original piece from 2014 was about an economist’s prediction that economic and political pressures will make it hard — he argued, impossible — to be a member of the EU without joining the euro after 2020.
But, five years after publication, those words have taken on a different meaning. Ms McVey’s language — that this was something “the EU has planned for its member states after 2020” — strongly suggests that if we delay or cancel Brexit, the UK will be legally compelled to join the euro.
That is wrong. EU law explicitly states that “Unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt the euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so”.