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Optimal Currency Areas: Why Does the Exchange Rate Regime Matter? (With an Application to UK Membership in EMU)

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  • W.H. Buiter

Abstract

Microeconomic efficiency and market transparency argue in favour of UK membership in EMU and for Scotland's membership in the UK monetary union and also in EMU. UK seigniorage (government revenues from money issuance) would be boosted by EMU membership. Lender of last resort arrangements would not be substantially affected by UK membership in EMU. The UK is too small and too open to be an optimal currency area. The same point applies even more emphatically to Scotland. The 'one-size-fits-all', 'asymmetric shocks' and 'cyclical divergence' objections to UK membership are based on the misapprehension that independent national monetary policy, and the associated nominal exchange rate flexibility, can be used effectively to offset or even neutralise asymmetric shocks. This 'fine tuning delusion' is compounded by a failure to understand that, under a high degree of international financial integration, market-determined exchange rates are primarily a source of shocks and instability. Instead, opponents of UK membership in EMU view exchange rate flexibility as an effective buffer for adjusting to asymmetric shocks originating elsewhere. I know of no evidence that supports such an optimistic reading of what exchange rate flexibility can deliver under conditions of very high international financial capital mobility. The economic arguments for immediate UK membership in EMU, at an appropriate entry rate, are overwhelming. Monetary union raises important constitutional and political issues. It involves a further surrender of national sovereignty to a supranational institution, the ECB/ESCB. It is essential that this transfer of national sovereignty be perceived as legitimate by those affected by it. In addition, the citizens of the UK have become accustomed to a high standard of openness and accountability of their central bank since it gained operational independence in 1997. The ECB/ESCB must be held to the same high standard, and, while there are grounds for optimism, there still is some way to go there.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0462.

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Date of creation: Jul 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0462

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: European Economic and Monetary Union; asymmetric shocks; national sovereignty;

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Cited by:
  1. Corsetti, Giancarlo, 2008. "A Modern Reconsideration of the Theory of Optimal Currency Areas," CEPR Discussion Papers 6712, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Riccardo DiCecio & Edward Nelson, 2010. "Euro Membership as a U.K. Monetary Policy Option: Results from a Structural Model," NBER Chapters, in: Europe and the Euro, pages 415-439 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Harris Dellas & George S.Tavlas, 2009. "An Optimum-Currency-Area Odyssey," Working Papers 102, Bank of Greece.
  4. Salá Rios, Mercé & Farré Perdiguer, Mariona & Torres Solé, Teresa, 2011. "El ciclo económico de Cataluña. Un análisis de la simetría respecto a España y a la UEM/Catalonia's Business Cycle. An Analysis of the Symmetry in Relation to Spain and the EMU," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 29, pages 913 (24 pá, Diciembre.
  5. J. James Reade & Ulrich Volz, 2009. "Too Much to Lose, or More to Gain? Should Sweden Join the Euro?," Economics Series Working Papers 442, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Lars Calmfors & Giancarlo Corsetti & Michael P. Devereux & Seppo Honkapohja & Gilles Saint-Paul & Hans-Werner Sinn & Jan-Egbert Sturm & Xavier Vives, 2007. "Chapter 2: Macroeonomic adjustment in the euro area – the cases of Ireland and Italy," EEAG Report on the European Economy, CESifo Group Munich, vol. 0, pages 59-72, 02.

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