So Greece has won four more months to prise herself from the fiscal mire created by her humongous Eurozone bailout, provided that by Monday she comes up with a “to do” list which satisfies the troika (the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank). No pressure there then. What the extension means is that we’ll be subjected to at least four more months of wall to wall media coverage of the “will they, won’t they” variety concerning the possibility of a Grexit (a Greek exit from the EZ: keep up at the back there!). Sometimes you wish someone would just toss a coin and have done with it.
In truth Greece has always been the problem child of the EZ. Siesta economy, medieval labour market, and now an addiction to mainlining hard core loans. Greece has already been on the brink of a Grexit, but last time she came back from the brink. This time round pundits speak openly that Greece should return to the drachma and restore competitiveness by devaluing.
I’ve always been partial to the concept of forging greater European integration. Following the horrors of two World Wars, both European in origin, it seems a no-brainer to want more co-operation rather than more fighting. Whatever the shortcomings of the European Union, and there are many, it seems impossible to imagine another global conflict starting because of intra-EU rivalries. But is a common currency a necessary part of greater integration? The UK didn’t think so, and stayed out of the EZ when it was set up in 1999.
But the UK could decide to leave the EU completely if the Conservatives win the next election and David Cameron holds his planned EU referendum in 2017. There are plenty of Brits who dislike the Brussels bureaucrats, as the rise of UKIP demonstrates. If a Brexit happens, this really would deal a hammer blow to the ideal of a united Europe. A Grexit would damage the EZ, although not irreparably. But the UK joined the EU (then the European Economic Community) back in 1973, over forty years ago. Unlike a Grexit, a Brexit really would send seismic shocks through Europe. We might be sitting through blanket media coverage of a possible Grexit at the moment, but who knows? In a couple of years, it could be blanket coverage of a possible Brexit.