Kenneth Clarke says Syriza victory risks Greek exit from eurozone

Exit Sign

The “latterday Trotskyites” from Syriza who won the Greek general election have set out on a course that risks a Greek exit from the eurozone, former chancellor Kenneth Clarke has said.

In some of the starkest comments about Greece by a senior British politician, Clarke said he hope that a “very great deal of work” is being carried out to minimise the impact on financial markets and to relieve poverty in Greece.

The former chancellor issued his warning when he was asked by Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics show on BBC1 whether the current crisis would lead to a Greek exit from the eurozone. Clarke said: “Just judging from the public statements of these latterday Trotskyites who appear to have won the election in Greece I can’t see how that can be reconciled.

“I hope a very great deal of work is going on to minimise the impact on financial markets, on the United Kingdom – it affects us just as much as anybody else in the western world – to make sure that any knock-on effects from a Grexit are minimised and knock-on effects on the Greek people who are going to suffer a lot of poverty are also minimised as well. It seems to me I can’t see how you sensibly avoid the Greeks defaulting and the Greeks having to leave the eurozone.”

Clarke, who was involved in helping to design the euro as chancellor between 1993-97, said it was wrong to blame Germany for the plight of Greece. He said that no other eurozone country could agree to an easing of Greece’s bailout conditions when Syriza is planning to spend precious resources on rehiring civil servants and raising the minimum wage.

Clarke said: “It is nothing to do with just the Germans. I can’t see why any other states should take a huge multibillion-pound hit again for the Greeks so they can hire more civil servants, raise their minimum wage, scrap all their labour market reforms and all the other things they want to do.”

Clarke issued his warning after Yanis Varoufakis, the new Greek finance minister, was told by his eurozone counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday that Athens must abide by its bailout agreement. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said before the meeting: “We have a programme. The programme is either brought properly to an end or there is no programme.”

Powered by article was written by Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent, for on Sunday 15th February 2015 16.59 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010