Sunday 18 February 2018

Boris Johnson: Sooner Greeks leave euro mess the better

Bailouts and austerity measures are only making the country's burden harder for people to bear, writes Boris Johnson

There comes a moment in any decent tragedy when the penny finally drops. The light breaks. The protagonist suddenly realises what a chump he has been -- that he has somehow managed accidentally to marry his mother and kill his father -- and that all his assumptions about his life are upside down. And the really awful thing about the tragedy now playing on the streets of Athens is that we haven't reached that bit yet.

We are all still kidding ourselves that the moment of reversal can be avoided. All the other governments of Europe are pretending that Greece can remain in the euro. If only the EU finance ministers can just have a bit more lunch in Brussels, if only Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel can hammer out another plan to reschedule the Greek debt, then somehow the Heath Robinson contraption is supposed to limp another few miles further on down the road with the Greeks bubblegummed to the roof.

All we need is for Athens to sack a few thousand more public sector workers, lop a few billion more off their pensions, chop more benefits, collect more taxes, and perhaps the problem will go away. If the Greeks would only change their national character, and suddenly discover a Scandinavian faith in government combined with German habits of industry and thrift, then, or so we are told, the catastrophe could be averted.

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