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The Greek Experience

At a time when British eurosceptics are turning up the volume with seductive accounts of how Britain could become great again outside the EU, it is worth having a look at what is happening over Greece.

Syriza, a protest party bringing together an unlikely coalition of idealists, populists, Marxists and the simply fed up, was elected on a promise of ending the hated austerity program and the supervision that went with it bu5t remaining in the Eurozone with it promise of monetary stability and protection against bankruptcy. In other words they offered the best of both worlds – the security of a monetary union without the disagreeable discipline that went with it. Now they are faced with the uncomfortable prospect either of rowing back on their promises to reflate the economy, increase wages and pensions and hire more public servants or leave the Eurozone and declare the country bankrupt. Neither alternative is likely to appeal to an electorate that has been promised it can have both; the prospects of a backlash on the back of broken promises must be truly terrifying for a leadership that has no prior experience of running a country, merely protesting about those who do..

In Britain an unlikely alliance of right wing and left wing politicians, idealists, nationalists, opportunists, academics and theoreticians are telling us that all we have to do is have a referendum, leave the EU and Britain can regain her rightful place as one of the world’s top nations and reverse the tide of immigration. There will be no penalties as the other 27 member states value us so highly that they will bend over backwards to accommodate our requirements, in other words like the Greeks we can have it all ways. The sceptics are encouraged not to say celebrated by a sensation seeking media desperate to pander to the perceived prejudices of its audience.

The parallels only go so far: Britain is not a member of the Eurozone and our economy is immeasurably stronger than Greece, no doubt we would make a much better fist of managing on our own. However there is a lot of similarity between the rhetoric employed by Syriza and eurosceptics here and the promises they make are uncannily alike. As Greece and the Eurozone governments struggle to find a way out of the morass that has been created by short term populism – and we must fervently hope they are successful – thoughtful Britons might ponder the lessons for our own country. Disenchantment with politics and the political class should not be allowed to trigger a lemming like rush to BREXIT.

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