Posted on Jan 20, 2012 by Sandy Finlayson |
Just as we were starting to hear whispers last week that the Euro crisis might be starting the ease following a couple of successful bond issues, Friday the 13th struck with a vengeance! While the commentators in the media rushed to pour fuel on the crisis, this is a good time to stand back and remind ourselves why Europe and the Euro came into being in the first place. Europe was of course devastated by two World Wars and the Great Depression between them during the first half of the last century. Anyone looking for the true meaning of “austerity” would do well to read Max Hastings’ book “All Hell was Let Loose” which describes the reality of war for all citizens for Europe in every theatre of engagement.
The European Coal and Steel Community was a pact made between France and Germany in 1952 to rationalise their key structural industries so that the people of Europe could never again go to war. This was followed by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 and the much maligned Common Agricultural Policy to ensure that Europe would always have sufficient food. Subsequent treaties led to the creation of the Euro which was originally mentioned by Victor Hugo as long as a hundred and fifty years ago. While the Euro may be in crisis, let us not lose sight of the fact that the founding fathers of Europe have succeeded in their aim of maintaining peace and plenty and broadly increasing the prosperity of the citizens of Europe, although it may not feel like it today.
America did not come into being at once. It was a project which lasted for over a hundred and fifty years starting with the thirteen states who signed up on the Declaration of Independence and ending only with the accession of Hawaii and Alaska in 1960. America has dominated world affairs over the last century and it is worth reflecting on whether it would have been able to so without a single language and a single currency. We all need a strong united Europe and a stable European currency. While our policy makers struggle to get to grips with the crisis which is likely to dominate the business headlines for months to come, we must be prepared for the direct consequences which are likely to have the following impacts on UK based SMEs:-
- We are likely to see a recession in much of the Eurozone which will have an immediate impact on exporters;
- This will be compounded by the strengthening of the Pound against the Euro;
- Eurozone banks will come under more pressure which will have a knock-on effect on UK banks;
- The Banks will all have to focus on strengthening their balance sheets for the new enhanced Basel III Tier 1 Capital Requirements;
- The widely reported maturity spike will happen in 2012, with banks unable or unwilling to roll-over maturing debt or, alternatively re-pricing debt on terms which will put highly geared companies under even more stress; and
- All of this means that the Banks will find it hard to increase their lending support to SMEs with all the consequences which that entails.
Amidst all of this bleak news, the one bright spot is the substantial enhancement of EIS relief. It may not be much but it will at least give some good businesses who would otherwise be starved of cash, the opportunity to look for a new source of capital to strengthen their balance sheets and build their businesses through these challenging times.