UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been urged to use the Greek financial crisis to ditch his ‘useless and meaningless’ negotiation strategy in Europe. Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson called on the Mr Cameron to ‘seize the opportunity’ for the dismantling of the eurozone, securing a significant return of powers to the UK.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Margaret Thatcher’s former Chancellor says Mr Cameron must exploit the turmoil in Athens to Britain’s advantage. All he needs is ‘the courage to seize it’. He wrote as negotiations continued in Brussels and a meeting set down for later today of all EU finance ministers was abruptly cancelled.
In his article for the newspaper, Lord Lawson says Mr Cameron has ‘watered down’ his commitment to block closer EU integration in favour of a UK opt-out from ‘ever closer’ union. He describes this tactic as ‘both useless and meaningless’.
Lord Lawson adds that ‘the Greek crisis should strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand, if he plays it right’. He claims that if Mr Cameron backs a ‘Grexit’ it will make his call for key powers to be repatriated to member states seem ‘both reasonable and thoroughly acceptable’.
The peer concludes: ‘My fear is that he will not seize this opportunity, but will join the chorus of support for maintaining the eurozone intact … I profoundly hope that I am wrong.’
According to the Mail on Sunday, there is growing clamour among senior Conservatives for Mr Cameron to exploit the Greek saga by defying Brussels. Yesterday, Boris Johnson said the Greeks had demonstrated the benefits of saying ‘No’ to the EU and were now likely to be given further loans. Lord Lawson wrote that Greece’s problem is the UK’s great opportunity for a Brexit:
‘With high unemployment and very low growth, the performance of the eurozone economy over the past decade has been persistently miserable, and for Greece it has been catastrophic.
‘This is not entirely due to the misbegotten euro experiment: Europe’s failure to implement the sort of supply-side reforms introduced in this country during the Thatcher era – from which, as last week’s excellent Budget showed, we continue to benefit – has also played a part.
‘But the single European currency has made everything much worse – for everyone, but in particular for Greece, which simply cannot compete so long as it has the same currency and exchange rate as Germany.
‘The fact that the eurozone has proved an economic disaster is hardly surprising, since it was always a political, not an economic, project.’
Today’s talks in Brussels are expected to continue until well into the afternoon after marathon negotiations on Saturday had ended without agreement and Eurogroup leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem described negotiations as “very difficult”.