Cameron told EU leader Greek exit from euro may be best option

David Cameron told a fellow EU leader that it “might be better” for Greece to withdraw from the eurozone to allow it to fix its economy, according to a leaked diplomatic document.

As eurozone finance ministers prepare to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday on the Greek crisis, the document suggests that the British prime minister believes a Greek exit may be the best option, though he acknowledged it would carry “major risks”.

The note, a leaked account of a private discussion between the prime minister and one of his European counterparts about his EU reform demands, indicates that Cameron made his remarks in an informal part of the meeting.

The note says: “On Greece, the PM wondered if it was wise for Angela Merkel to allow the discussion with Greece to take place at PM level and mused that it might be better for Greece to leave the eurozone in order to sort its economy out – though also accepted that there were major risks in that too.”

The prime minister’s remarks may cause some irritation among eurozone leaders who are fighting to avoid a Greek default, which could lead to its exit from the euro. Finance ministers will reconvene in Brussels amid signs of a renewed rift between Greece and its creditors.

Athens is understood to be making clear that it is standing by its tax and pensions plans, which were submitted to its creditors earlier in the week. These include a one-off 12% tax on all corporate profits over €500,000 (£350,000) and a rise in pension contributions by employees.

If Greece fails to reach agreement with its creditors then it could miss a €1.5bn loan repayment it is due to make to the International Monetary Fund by Tuesday.

The IMF has raised concerns that the latest proposals from Athens on pensions and corporate tax could jeopardise economic growth. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, warned that eurozone leaders may have to meet again to deal with the fallout from a Greek default.

The British prime minister’s suggestion that Greece might be better off outside the euro may revive criticism of Cameron among some eurozone countries for lecturing them on the single currency, which Britain decided not to be part of.

Cameron and George Osborne have warned in recent years that the “remorseless logic” of a single union is that it should lead to a fiscal union.

Sir John Holmes, Britain’s former ambassador to France, told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One in 2012 that EU leaders were resentful of Cameron’s interventions. Holmes said: “Other leaders find David Cameron’s lectures rather irritating.”

British officials declined to comment publicly on the leaking of the prime minister’s views on Greece and the euro. Sources said the prime minister believed the Greek crisis needed to be resolved and a failure to do so would lead to consequences.

Powered by article was written by Alberto Nardelli in London and Nicholas Watt in Brussels, for The Guardian on Friday 26th June 2015 16.33 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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