Britain has dispatched a taskforce of top civil servants to Cyprus to advise the stricken island on how to pull its banking system back from the brink of collapse.
The officials, led by Treasury mandarin Tom Scholar, flew out to the Mediterranean island after the government in Nicosia accepted an offer of "technical assistance" as it races to find solutions to keep its economy afloat.
The highly regarded scholar is the Treasury's second permanent secretary and an expert in public finance and international issues. At the time of the UK financial meltdown, he was parachuted into Northern Rock after it was nationalised. He was also a player in the 2008 bailouts of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group. He is understood to have assembled a team of experts in banking and crisis management from across government departments to help solve the problems facing the country's two biggest banks, Bank of Cyprus and Laiki.
The UK team arrived as the parliament in Cyprus approved legislation to restructure its banking sector and create a national solidarity fund that could save the island from crashing out of the eurozone.
Nicosia's 56-member House endorsed the legislation after 12 hours of debate. The move is seen as central to raising €5.8bn (£5bn) that international creditors have set as a condition for a €10bn bailout.
MPs agreed to impose capital controls although they stopped short of voting on a highly contentious levy on bank deposits, now expected to take place on Saturday. If it is approved, the Cypriot leader is expected to go to Brussels for talks with top officials.
The clock is ticking on Cyprus because the European Central Bank has given the country until Monday to shore up its banks before it pulls a key funding lifeline.
The nation's banks will have been shut for 10 days, assuming they are able to reopen on Tuesday. They closed last weekend when Nicosia announced it had accepted a bailout which included skimming €5.8bn from savings accounts. That was rejected by parliament.
In light of the financial crisis, the Foreign Office warned travellers to take plenty of euros with them and to be wary of thieves.
Advice on the its website said: "While banks are closed, we advise taking sufficient euros to cover the duration of your stay, alongside appropriate security precautions against theft."
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