Normally, the phrase ‘continent in crisis’ is hyperbole. But it seems appropriate today as we contemplate the situation Europe, and more specifically the EU, finds itself in. In the next few days, Greece could default, triggering its exit from the single currency and financial disruption across the Eurozone. Meanwhile, Rome is on the verge of unilaterally issuing Mediterranean migrants travel documents enabling them to travel anywhere in the Schengen area because—as Nicholas Farrell reports in the magazine this week—Italy simply cannot cope with many more arrivals.
Those involved in the British government’s preparations for a Greek exit put the chances of it at 50:50. If Greece did leave, which would be in its medium term interests, it would trigger a period of chaos that would be so bad, I’m told, that there would need to be humanitarian aid sent to the country.
In these circumstance, it is perhaps unsurprising that David Cameron setting out the UK’s renegotiation demands won’t dominate Thursday’s EU summit. But there is actually a danger that the whole process is moving too quickly. For the events in Greece could end up reshaping how both the EU and the Eurozone work, providing Cameron with the opportunity to secure far more radical changes to the terms of Britain’s EU membership. It would be foolish for Cameron to strike any deal before we have seen how the Greek crisis resolves itself.