Euro collapse "possible" - but not cheap

The collapse of the euro is a "possibility". The admission is from OBR member Stephen Nickell. He qualified it by saying it was unlikely. But as in many failed relationships, sometimes the partners decide to call it a day. But breakin' up is not just hard to do but expensive. Very expensive.

Mark(ed) down

How expensive? The Economist recently sketched the scenario. Any hint that Germany was to retreat would see scores of bank runs, damaging existing badly-hit banks further. New capital controls would have to be introduced. Germany's own eurozone assets would be heavily marked down.

The massive cost of reconversion back to the D-mark would be huge. Minting new coins. Reprogramming computers, ATMs, vending machines. The list goes on (and on). And that's just the cost for Germany. Just think of the costs to bear if it was Greece or Spain.

Investment collapse

Were Germany to pull out, its currency would rise hard, severely damaging its export competitiveness. How would the EU operate following a German pull-out? Investment would almost certainly dive right across the eurozone.

Many Germans love the idea of a return to the D-mark. But it was rather easier to talk about cutting off Greece a year ago. It's rather less easy to talk about a mass exodus - Portugal, Spain, Ireland - now.

Price worth paying

It's also easy to forget, despite the huge current problems and expense, the massive ambition of the euro project. After centuries of wars and bickering, a shared currency! Right now it's all a horrible mess (and let's not even get onto political and fiscal convergence).

Yet it's a mess that, on balance, is worth staying the course. Divorce is crushingly expensive, as anyone who's been through it knows. Most frugal Germans, in their hearts, must also know this.

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