Tuesday, 1 November 2011

That Bombshell

I wrote yesterday's post about the referendum proposal in Greece in a bit of a hurry. Partly because I was at work when the news came through on my phone and partly because it was such a bolt from the blue. It completely surprised everyone even George Papandreou's own parliamentarians. But whatever the reasons behind his decision, much amusement can be had from the obvious sheer terror he invoked across the EU. Daniel Hannan writes:
I wish I could convey the sheer writhing horror that George Papanderou's referendum proposal has provoked in Brussels. Eurocrats instinctively dislike referendums. They feel that their work is too important and complicated to be vulnerable to the prejudices of hoi polloi.

A referendum at any time would be regarded by European leaders as irresponsible. But a referendum when the euro is teetering on the brink is seen as the height of ingratitude, selfishness and recklessness.
Wondrous joy. As expected the markets this morning have taken on a plummet trajectory - over two months of uncertainty now lie ahead until the vote. That Greece will default is a given, the markets have priced that in; how and when are the key questions. Now with the referendum there's another possibility that's been thrown into the mix, that in the event of a no vote that Greece could not only exit the Euro but possibly the EU altogether.

And it's the last point that means a Greek no vote is not a certainty.

Firstly it will significantly depend on the referendum question asked. If the question is along the lines of the bailout package itself and more austerity then a no vote is a likely outcome. However if the question is couched in terms of a no vote meaning exit from the Euro and the EU, and I suspect strongly that this will be the case, then the outcome is far from certain. Not only do referendums tend to favour the status quo but much scaremongering will be deployed - Greece leaving 'will be a disaster' they will cry.

Secondly the EU will use every tactic in the book; blackmail, threats, coercion and bribes. They have form on this - Lisbon, Ireland anyone? Then there's the infamous EU's last resort of; 'wrong answer vote again'.

A no answer is not guaranteed by any means.

What Papandreou has done though is start a risk of contagion of similar demands in other countries. Already, after last week's deal, Spain, Portugal and Ireland started making noises about getting more concessions from the EU as Zerohedge highlights:
...just as expected, the weakest PIIGS - Portugal and Ireland - wasted no time to start rumblings about a "suddenly slowing economy" in the aftermath of the Greek bail out which achieved nothing but to delay contagion by 48 hours and to unleash demands by everyone else to get the same concessions, in essence pushing Europe into an even deeper hole...

Confirming that the tsunami of demands has been unleashed is today's announcement from the Bank of Spain that not only was Q3 GDP flat (read: negative), but that the deficit target for the year would not be achieved.
How long before they start to make threats of referendums as well?

Another pressing problem is Italy, here the Eurozone has real immediate problems. I suspect that Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos's hospitalisation due to stress related health problems won't be the last amongst Eurozone politicians.

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