- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Strike one against the idea of an expanding global economy. British Chancellor George Osborne, who’s been credited for getting his country’s debt under control and keeping pace with an austere budget, said one looming threat to the steady-as-she-goes economic policy that England has been practicing in recent months is the European Union.

“I want us to stay part of the European Union, but it has to be a reformed relationship,” the leading economy official said, in a sit-down interview with Reuters on Tuesday morning.

He said Europe as a whole was “running sore” — meaning, barely getting by on the economic front — and the future with an unchanged EU is bleak. He didn’t go into details about his preferred reforms.

“This continent,” he said, in the live news feed from Reuters, “is pricing itself out of the market.” He also added: “This country has to up its level of ambition.”

Mr. Osbourne made the statements the same day economists were crediting him for keeping the country’s budget goals on track this year, the U.K. Guardian reported. And they came just hours after notable banking guru Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, gave kudos to the Mr. Osborne for the economic recovery.

In an interview with BBC, Mr. Greenspan — who was no fan of Britain’s austerity push — said he was pleasantly surprised by the Chancellor’s economic gains. He said: “What Britain has done with its austerity program has worked much better than I thought it would. I have had discussions with George Osborne and others and, as far as I can judge, it is coming out pretty much the way they had expected.”

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The high praise from high-ranking economic sources gives Mr. Osborne’s push for EU reforms extra punch. It also no doubt draws attention to another of Mr. Osborne’s economic and energy platforms — previously controversial, but given the path of progress seen with his handling of the budget, it will perhaps find more favor among lawmakers.

In his interview with Reuters, Mr. Osborne also said: “I’m all for getting fracking going. This is the country that pioneered the extraction of energy from the ground.” He also said the eurozone had dampened investment confidence and decisions in the United Kingdom, but now, with an improved economy and path of lowered debt, optimism has returned.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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