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by Liam Kirkaldy
06 July 2015
The Greek crisis could push the British left towards voting to leave the EU

The Greek crisis could push the British left towards voting to leave the EU

The word ‘crisis’ derives from Greek. In fact it is tempting to wonder if it is the role of Greece in shaping the modern world – even providing many of the words and philosophies we use to make sense of it – that makes the current crisis so shocking.

At the moment the most convenient go-to Greek invention for commentators is democracy. As the country wakes up to the No vote in the referendum, it’s easy enough to see why.

Faced with two seemingly impossible choices, Greeks voted No, rejecting the terms of the proposed bailout package. Whether the choice will mean Greek leaving the single currency or even the EU itself remains to be seen.

But with the UK preparing for a referendum of its own, there is a sense the Greek crisis could not have come at worse time for the pro-European left.

While previously, concerns over EU’s ideological underpinnings were confined to the right side of the Conservative Party, in the last year or so, opposition in the UK seems to have spread.

As Greece has gone from crisis to crisis and austerity has tightened on the country with each round of bailouts, murmurs of dissent over the EU have reached into the anti-austerity left. Ultimately the fault for that lies with the EU itself.

Given events, it is perhaps natural the left should be disillusioned. Each new package of bailouts has brought new austerity measures, and each time the Greek economy has deteriorated. Even the IMF has warned the country needs debt relief.

The EU was meant to look after Europe, and for many on the left of UK politics, seeing what this supposed force for peace and austerity is doing to human lives leaves a very bitter taste.

In fact it is possible the credibility of the EU may have been damaged beyond repair by its handling of the Eurozone crisis. It is certainly difficult to see how it could justify expanding further.

And even if its reputation does recover, with the 2017 EU referendum looming, it looks like it will not just be Tory eurosceptics backing the out campaign.

Unlike crisis, the word credit does not derive from Greek – instead from the Latin ‘credere’, meaning belief. Lending money is based on credibility – on the belief the loaned sum can be repaid.

So as Greeks wake up with the No vote, the EU may yet extend another line of credit so the country’s banks can re-open, and the basics of the economy can function.

But for those on the British left, belief in the EU may be running out.

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