LONDON — A lucrative prize for the economist who devises the best exit strategy from the eurozone was unveiled Wednesday, backed by a eurosceptic member of Britain's ruling Conservative party.
The Wolfson Economics Prize offers £250,000 (285,400 euros, $395,000) to the economist who comes up with the best method for an "orderly exit" of one or more member countries wishing to leave the European Monetary Union.
The prize claims to be the second biggest cash award offered to an academic economist after the Nobel Prize for Economics.
Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, also known as Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of British fashion retailer Next and a Conservative party donor, is funding the award.
In a statement Wolfson said: "There is now a real possibility that political or economic pressure may force one or more states to leave the euro.
"If this process is mismanaged it could threaten European savings, employment and the stability of the international banking system.
"The prize aims to ensure that high quality economic thought is given to how the euro might be restructured into more stable currencies."
Although Britain is not among the 17 countries using the euro, recent economic difficulties and the ever-deepening eurozone crisis have stirred up anti-European sentiment among factions of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party.
A group of around 120 lawmakers want Cameron to set out a clear plan for pulling back from Brussels, in a move that threatens to reopen a deeply divisive issue for the party.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has made clear he would like a transfer of powers, but admitted that any such move would be impossible while the Tories lead a coalition government with the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats.
However, British lawmakers are expected to debate calls for a referendum on British membership of the EU after an online petition on the subject attracted 100,000 signatures.
Neil O'Brien, director of Policy Exchange, the London-based thinktank that will award the Wolfson Prize, said it will "help answer some of the many important, yet unanswered, questions."
"While there's been a lot of speculation about countries leaving the euro, there has been too little detailed research on the many complex questions this will raise," O'Brien said.
Submissions for the prize must be made by January 31 next year.
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