Brian Monteith: Greek ‘deal’ marks end of democracy in Europe

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This week marked a terrible, saddening passing in European political life. It was not any one person; not the death of an irreplaceable leader to whom we owe a great debt or the slipping away of some quiet yet remarkable public servant who put in more than he or she took out.

No, this week we witnessed the death of any last semblance of European Union democracy as any respect for how people vote melted away with the alpine snows in summer. The Greek people were sold out by both their own leaders and the EU bosses.

It maybe sounds a preposterous claim, or dismissed as Monteith laying it on thick with a trowel as he whips up ant-EU sentiment before a referendum in the next 18 months. I simply ask that the facts be considered and then you make your own mind up.

Everyone is entitled to their view, and more and more people from all political outlooks share my conclusion – that the European Union has become bigger than anything it was meant to be and is now beyond control, beyond accountability and responsible to no-one but its own elite.

The Greek people were asked by their prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, if they were prepared to face yet further economic austerity, and gave a resounding No. This empowered Tsipras to go back to the eurozone creditors and ask for a better deal.

It is true that the Greek state has been living beyond its means for decades by dishing out pensions, welfare benefits and public services far greater than its income (Scottish Parliament please take note). And it is right that there should be a reckoning where it confronts its circumstances, changes its ways and does not rely in perpetuity upon the EU equivalent of the Barnet Formula. The medicine has to allow the economy to trade its way out of poverty, but the increased taxes in tourism – the one area where Greece has a competitive advantage – will consign it to perpetual poverty.

It will be only a matter of years before it has to come back and admit it still cannot pay back its debts because “austerity” has not resuscitated the patient. The only way out is to leave the euro currency, if only temporarily, and become economically competitive with Spain, Portugal, Italy and France who would remain in the euro – and with Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia who are outside it. Immediately you will notice that other euro states have a vested interest in keeping Greece locked-in to a spiral of decline.

And it does not end there. Germany too wants Greece in the euro, for it helps depress the value of the currency and so makes German exports far more attractive.

Nor could Greece be allowed to write-off some of its debt, said the Germans, the same country that has historically had its debts written off by everyone (including the Greeks) many times before.

Then there are the EU bureaucrats in Brussels who see the euro as their one great project which no country should be allowed to leave, indeed they made no provision for such a circumstance were it to be required. Everything possible will be done to keep Greece in the trap that has snared it – a currency that does not suit its economy.

So when Tsipras turned up to discuss the final deal he was browbeaten and harangued into a settlement not dissimilar to the one his electorate had already rejected. When he went back to parliament in Athens, the cradle of European democracy, he admitted he did not approve of the deal but that it had to be accepted. Even the IMF said it was a very bad deal. His former finance minister voted against it, as did many others, but it was passed. A sorry end to democracy in Europe.

As if that was not enough, we now learn that the UK will face a bill of at least £850 million to underwrite the Greek debt exposure even though we are not a member of the euro and despite an agreement in 2010 that this would not happen. We could even be liable for more if others fail to pay.

Imagine the reaction if the Scottish referendum had voted Yes and Alex Salmond had gone to London only to come back saying there would be no independence until Scotland paid off its share of UK debt?

And what does this mean for the coming EU referendum? The only way for any reforms to stick is to have them adopted as EU treaties – but treaty change will not be countenanced for it will lead to more referendums in France, Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark where the people have all voted no before. The whole EU sham democracy would then unravel.

This week EU democracy died and with it any assurances about reform that David Cameron might obtain. Will the referendum even matter at all? The question is not about immigration, the euro or trade – it is about who will govern the UK – the politicians we choose or the faceless few in Brussels?