In terms of the European Union and its history, today will probably be a day for the books, whatever happens. Either a deal between Greece and the EU will be struck at the 11th hour, saving the day for all involved; or, Greece will have set the stage for leaving the Euro and then who knows what happens after that takes place. Both sides up until now have been locked in a game of international, high stakes chicken, sure the other side is going to give way. But now we’ve come to Brussels and today: a sort of 21st century, European Hatfield v McCoys. We face the difficulty in seeing how either side caves in gracefully, and yet still find it hard to see the whole thing really coming to the worst possible end.
I’ll put aside all thoughts about what happens should Athens and Brussels ask for a divorce on a larger scale to ask this instead: what will it mean for David Cameron in regards to his renegotiation with the EU? This is a tough one to assess, since there are many factors involved.
The Eurosceptics will no doubt lick their lips should the prospect of Grexit, at least from the Euro, come to pass. This is based on a simplistic argument, but often they are the most effective in politics: look it’s all a mess, wouldn’t we better off out of it? But I’m not so sure this would wash. There are two main reasons for this.
First off, if the Greece thing falls to bits, the last thing the EU needs is for Britain to leave. So it strengthens Cameron’s hand a little, just in terms of adding to a sense of, “We really need to keep them in now, don’t we? What is it they want?”, something the prime minister is desperately trying to engender in his European counterparts anyhow. To have the Greek tragedy followed by one of the EU’s richest countries democratically deciding to bail would be pretty bad for the European project to say the least.
The second is that should Greece tumble out of the Euro, the short term at the very least is likely to be very ugly within the country. Bank runs, riots, the whole bit. It will be easier for Cameron to say to the inherently small “c” conservative British public, “You really think we’d be better off outside of the whole thing? Look what happens when you try and go it alone.” Greece may well act as a warning to us lot not to flirt with leaving the suddenly comfy looking bosom of Brussels.
Of course, this is mere speculation – a bit like every Eurosceptic idea of what Britain would be like post-EU. Things could get better for Cameron, but of course they could get worse. Probably for everyone involved, let’s hope the Greeks can argue their way to a deal today.