Does Greece have a little list?

On Monday Greece is meant to produce her schedule of reforms to prove that the new government is serious about accepting the disciplines and rules of the Euro area. By all accounts it is taking time to produce much to go on the list. The government is much keener on measures which target tax avoidance and evasion, than on measures which cut spending. It is also willing to impose more taxes on the rich, for those  who  have stayed to pay.  Previous governments said they were seeking to cut avoidance and remove evasion, so it will be interesting to see what new ideas they come up with which might increase the revenue rather than make the position worse.

The truth is Greece is running out of money, and does need to borrow more. The EU has slipped them another 2bn Euro, and the European Central Bank has cut them a lot of slack, through its Emergency Lending facility. They have needed that, as there has been some flight of deposits out of Greek banks during the present period of uncertainty.

Greece needs money for a variety of purposes. The state needs more money to pay its daily bills, as it appears the primary balance or surplus has slipped away. The state needs money to repay debts owing soon. The commercial banks need money to deal with deposit outflows and to keep them liquid enough for their day to day operations.

Many Greek people need money. Out of work and squeezed too much, the voters have made clear they want change. The trouble is, the state has no extra money to give them, and the private sector is still badly hit by poor demand, lower incomes and by the tax demands of a state that needs more cash.

The government can see this, and wants to change the position somehow. It finds instead that creditors expect payment and the European institutions expect Greece to play by the rules. Greece lives on in hope that the EU will make an exception again for this country. The governments of Spain, Italy and Portugal are none too happy at any special treatment. Why should Greece be let off the controls if we have to keep to them, they ask? Ringing in their ears is the noise of new challenger parties in their countries, watching everything that Syriza says and does with a view to exploiting it.

I cannot ignore this drama. A huge amount is resting on it. The Eurozone is inching forwards economically at last. It is in the UK’s interest that their economies do pick up, and their citizens buy more goods and services. Greece could still damage all that. Cans kicked down roads too many times fall to bits.

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70 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    The sooner the can fall to bits the better it is (on average) for the Greeks, and everyone else, as we saw in Iceland. Yet may Tory MPs wanted the UK to join the ERM and the Euro. Quite a few, even now bizarrely, still want the UK to join the Euro.

    Cameron and Osborne are still tipping money (borrowed on the backs of taxpayers) down the drain via ECB soft loans and surcharge payments to the EU.

    • Richard1
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Excellent letter in the FT in mid Feb from a distinguished finance professor, Theo Vermaelen, suggesting that a solution could be for the Greek government to sell an issue of zero coupon perpetual bonds to all those Marxists and other leftists who agree with Syrizia’s leftists politics (perhaps the left wing Labour MP Peter Hain, who praised Syrizia, could be an investor?)

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        Good plan, but alas these leftists rarely put their money where their mouth is. They just like to waste other people’s money.

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        I think you’ll find all the rich leftists have no spare money to invest due to school fees.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          Well they would not want their children mixing with working class people (whose parents do things, build things, transport things and repair things) at a bog standard comp would they? That would just never do.

          Luckily for them there is the odd free religious school, such as the London Oratory – to rescue some from their hypocritical, dilemmas and difficulties.

      • Hope
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        When JR writes it is in the UK interests the Eurozone countries pick up I am not so sure. In a strict immediate term it might be, in the long term it might not because it would be better to rely on economies outside the EU and help the argument to get out the EU. Europhiles, based on JR’s sentence, will claim we need to be in the EU to benefit, jobs lost etc. I would prefer exports are built outside the EU, the same for imports to get rid of the socialist construct.

        Cameron claimed last week to have halved the deficit to GDP, most will hear he halved the deficit. The reality is he borrowed more than Labour in half the time! £90 billion deficit and £1.4 trillion debt is hardly a success story. We did not hear that nor wa he thoroughly questioned on his abject failures. As for his DT interview over the weekend he comes over, compared to his record in office, as deluded. Darling’s economic plan is a fag paper difference from what Osborne has followed and where the UK is to date. In fact you would have to concede that Darling is a better forecaster than Osborne and that he was the original thinker behind the Treasury plan that Osborne implemented.

        Booker points out again the madness of the EU energy policy that the cartel are following.

        • DaveM
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          I agree with your first sentence, and although I can understand (and agree with) JR’s keenness for the countries of Europe to have strong economies, I am surprised by his enthusiasm for the Euro to pick up.

          I want the whole of the Eurozone and the EU to collapse into a steaming snotty heap, and for the established nation states to rise again, stronger without the shackles of the soviet-style socialist union which is ruining the continent and my country.

          The French have clearly displayed their feelings towards Hollande’s pro-EU and pro-Euro-austerity-Brussels-control policies. I just hope this is the beginning of the end for the socialist alien bureaucracy which resides in Brussels and wishes to wipe my beloved country from the map.

          So as far as the pro-EU governments of Greece, Germany, Spain, Italy etc are concerned, **** them all.

          • Martyn G
            Posted March 30, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

            Dave,

            if by “…..beginning of the end for the socialist alien bureaucracy which resides in Brussels and wishes to wipe my beloved country from the map” you are referring to England, it is a done deal because ably supported by our Parliament the EU long ago removed England from the map of Europe. It will never, ever again be replaced on the map unless and until Parliament decides so, with or without the blessing of the EU aristocracy.

          • DaveM
            Posted March 31, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            Martyn,

            I don’t care a fig for made up maps, just what happens in reality. At present England exists as a country, and has done for well over 1000 years.

            I’d be prepared to bet that after all the EU nonsense has blown away – which it will sooner or later – the four countries which will still exist will be England, Scotland, Wales and Greece. They’ve been around longer than most others, they don’t change boundaries or languages every few years, and they have a solid cultural identity.

            I object to the EU meddling mainly because it will be more difficult to repair all the damage the idiots have done. Maybe won’t affect you or me, but my kids, grandkids etc will have to pick up the bill.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          It has been and is in the short term economic interests of the UK, and therefore in the short term political interests of the Tory and LibDem parties, for the eurozone to hold together and start to recover so that the UK economic recovery is reinforced.

          However it is directly against the long term strategic interests of the UK as a supposedly independent sovereign state for the eurozone to survive this crisis intact and then continue its expansion, as demanded by the present EU treaties, until eventually it swallows us up as well so that we too then become subject to all of the eurofederalising measures that “get a grip” Osborne has been urging upon the eurozone states.

          Back in 2010 Cameron had a “golden opportunity” to square this circle by insisting on EU treaty changes designed to at least impede the future expansion of the Eurozone, and preferably prune it back, in exchange for his assent to the EU treaty change being demanded by Merkel, and Clegg could not have stopped him doing that, but he voluntarily declined to make any use of that opportunity.

          I could refer back to numerous relevant comments that JR has been generous enough to allow me to post here over the past years but I will limit it to just five, starting with one on December 12th 2010 here:

          http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2010/12/12/why-i-had-doubts-about-the-irish-loan/

          “Therefore the leverage available to Cameron would be immense – the threat of a veto on the change, plus the threat of putting any agreed treaty to a referendum – and he could have absolutely no excuse if he failed to secure a very substantial quid pro quo in our national interests.”

          To which somebody else correctly predicted:

          “Yes, but he won’t do anything to take advantage of it”

          Then on March 24th 2011, at the top of the comments here:

          http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2011/03/24/john-redwood%e2%80%99s-contribution-to-the-budget-debate-23-march/

          “Yesterday must have seemed a good day to bury this vote by MPs … Whether or not they understand this, in effect almost all of the Tory MPs have just voted in favour of the UK being forced to join the euro – not immediately, but eventually … Glad to see your name among the 29 “noes””.

          A rather desperate attempt at satire on September 16th 2011:

          http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2011/09/16/it-takes-an-american-to-save-the-euro-for-a-few-days/

          “In his speech to the House of Commons, Mr Pitt said that it was massively in Britain’s interest that Napoleon Bonaparte should consolidate his present conquests into a strong and stable Empire.”

          And so forth, to which JR replied that Pitt had said it differently.

          A preliminary list of six EU treaty changes that Cameron should have demanded, here on October 5th 2011:

          http://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2011/10/05/protecting-the-single-market/

          “… in exchange for the change to Article 136 TFEU that (some) countries in Euroland want, Cameron should have demanded a series of related and perfectly reasonable treaty changes to protect our long term national interests. Such as: …”

          And finally on October 14th 2011:

          “The present government policy is insane; unless the real intention is that eventually we’ll also be forced into the federal eurozone that Osborne says he wants, in which case it makes perfect sense.”

          • agricola
            Posted March 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

            On the evidence, our government and those MPs backing them have behaved treasonably in that they have no interest in the sovereignty of the UK and are prepared to see it absorbed into a European state. I see no other explanation for their track record. Heath conned us with a trade agreement, Major with subsidiarity, and Cameron with a hollow referendum promise. If you do not have a Eurosceptic MP there is only one way to stop[ this juggernaut, Vote UKIP.

          • yulwaymartyn
            Posted March 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            I do not know why you persist in this fantasy that this country is an independent sovereign nation. In my view that ended on 2nd November 1956 with Eisenhower’s UN declaration regarding the Suez debacle. From that day forth this country has NEVER been an independent sovereign nation. Indeed to emphasise the irony that same day could be regarded as the day when the EU in its earliest forms was created – out of French determination to never again be subordinate to the United States or indeed the UK. (French troops being under the command of the British during the Suez crisis). The absence of national sovereignty was yet again reinforced years later with the ludicrous and hideous sight of a British Prime Minister standing shoulder to shoulder with an idiotic and dangerous US president.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            You may see it as a fantasy, but I see the legal reality that the UK is still an independent sovereign state even though some like yourself would dearly wish it to be otherwise. We all know that sovereignty does not imply omnipotence, not for the UK and not even for the USA.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Fat chance of that, Richard, of course as Left wingers live and breathe on the basis that someone else will pay. That’s why they don’t care about debt because they reckon that it is the “rich” that will have to repay, that’s if it gets repaid at all. Similarly with spending: certainly the “poor” will pay little or, increasingly, no tax so once again the Lefties think spending is grand. That makes at least some sense from their point of view; but one might think that the poor would want more not fewer rich given that, at the disproportionate rates the rich pay, the extra tax take would redound to their benefit. I am neither rich nor poor BTW, trust me.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        It’s more likely that Putin would be an investor.

        https://euobserver.com/economic/128187

        “Bubbling in the background, meanwhile, is the question of whether Tsipras’ government will ask Russia for help – a move that would likely cause major controversy in the EU which is struggling to maintain a uniform line on its sanctions on Moscow following its actions in Ukraine.

        Andrey Maslov, Russia’s ambassador in Greece, told Kathermerini newspaper Sunday that Tsipras’ visit to Moscow on 8 April will be a “big event”.

        “If the Greek government submits a request for a loan, it will be examined – as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting his counterpart Nikos Kotzias and as Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has said,” he said.”

        In response to which a German MEP warns “those who play with fire and now look for help in Russia can get their fingers burnt”.

        Which instantly reminded me of that sinister warning given to the Czech President Klaus by a German journalist in the autumn of 2009, that he should not lean too far out of the window because he might fall:

        http://teameurope.info/node/698

        Referring to three previous Czech defenestrations and adding “But it does not have to become another defenestration: He could simply resign.”

        • Roy Grainger
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          I read that all the main new “populist” parties in Europe, either of the left or right, have links to Russia of some sort including receiving funding from them, the only exception being UKIP.

        • forthurst
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

          There could be a tie-in here with the Turkish Stream pipeline to replace the South Stream which was to pass through Bulgaria put now will be going to the Greek border; the Europeans have been very supine in allowing the USA to dictate to them on this issue; no one with any sense would want to rely on gas routed through Ukraine which has a history of stealing gas intended for Europe and whose pipelines are controlled by ‘oligarchs’ whose pathological greed would appear so extreme as to constitute insanity.

  2. graham1946
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    What’s the alternative to keeping on bailing them out in reality? All very well to say let them go bust etc. but will they take that? The danger I can see for the future is that Russia may well like to offer support to get a toehold via the back door into Europe, without tanks and guns.

    Far fetched? Maybe. But so were tanks in the Ukraine a short while ago when NATO ‘guaranteed’ their safety and ratted in the face of Putin. A fat lot of good our ‘deterrent’ Trident was there then eh? Another £100 billion to be well spent. The old one is still in its packaging.

    Not even a threat of action of any sort. Just ‘sanctions’ which don’t seem to have achieved much other than impoverish the Russian people further and make them love Putin even more. Bush and Blair have neutered the West and the terrorists and other enemies know now that the West can be defeated with Kalshinikovs and roadside bombs, despite having the most sophisticated armour in the world.

    The EU is on the hook and will remain so and so, indirectly are we. We (the West) just have to suck it up and sort it out.

    The stupidity of politicians knows no bounds to have got here in the first place due mainly to self aggrandisement and delusions of grandeur of small men. The way all wars start.

    • outsider
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Dear Graham, Your analysis is far too pessimistic for any politician to agree but rings horribly true.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      When did NATO give that guarantee to non-NATO Ukraine? Never, as far as I am aware, and nor should it ever give any such guarantee.

      • graham1946
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Denis,

        I am not as well versed in all the intricacies as you are, but according to Wiki ,Ukraine was negotiating membership of NATO for years and held joint tactical and strategical exercises and operations during the Yanukovych Presidency. It goes on to say ‘NATO officials vowed support for Ukraine. InFebruary 2014 AF Rasmussen SEC.GEN of NATO reaffirmed NATO membership was still an option for Ukraine’. It seems that this was all dropped after Russia ‘invasion’ in August 2014.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

          Still, Ukraine is not a NATO member and the countries which are NATO members are not in any way bound to assist it in the same way as they are bound to assist each other under Article 5 of the NATO treaty.

          • graham1946
            Posted March 31, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

            Weasel words. So, does that negate a ‘vow’ then? Why give a certain promise (which is what a vow is) if you do not intend to keep it. They were negotiating membership, and going on military exercises with NATO so they must have had some understanding, right up close to when Putin invaded then NATO lost its bottle. This is why Putin invaded and useless NATO (just as useless as the UN) collapsed and doffed its cap. Putin will take that as a sign. We should save our money.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted March 31, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            A ‘vow’ from NATO officials doesn’t trump the NATO treaty agreed by all the member state governments. But in any case NATO along with the EU and the US has already done more than enough to stir up trouble in Ukraine.

  3. Roy Grainger
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Maybe the Greeks should ban zero-hours contracts, according to Labour this will magically massively boost tax revenues and eliminate their deficit. Simple.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Indeed and if they want to be taller they should just pull on their shoe laces and lift themselves off the floor!

      Why not just introduce a minimum wage of €1000 per hour too, then all the workers would have to pay lots of tax!

      Though there might only be about six of them.

  4. Bill
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Could they leave the Euro for a contracted period and then rejoin? This would allow them to rebuild their tourist economy before returning to the apparent security of the Euro.

    • outsider
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Dear Bill, It could work but would only be feasible, I think, if it also addressed the immediate debt issue: at the least the ECB and other official creditors would have to agree to their debt being re-denominated in drachma.

      • acorn
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Not so. A sovereign state can re-denominate the currency it will use without permission from anyone. Greece uses a foreign currency, the Euro, as do all Eurozone countries including Germany. If Greece re-denominates to the Drachma, it will be the Eurosystem and the Eurozone that will have a larger problem than Greece. Greece knows this; the Germans / ECB know this.

        Greek banks are still part of the Eurosystem, so capital flight from Greek commercial banks is not a big problem. The ECB is obliged to keep those banks afloat under the Treaty; and, as the Euro currency issuer, it will cost the ECB nothing. The chances of some new Euro injected (fiscal stimulus) into the Eurozone at the moment causing inflation (the only risk), is zero.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          As I recall the new Greek government bonds now held by the EU institutions have been written under English law, not Greek law, precisely to make sure that the Greek Parliament could not unilaterally alter their terms, including redenomination into drachma.

          That was a part of the last “restructuring”, aka “default”:

          http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2014/04/09/1823672/that-new-greek-bond-the-terms/

          • acorn
            Posted March 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            It was Denis but, the “Lex monetae” rules. If a German borrower takes out a US dollar loan facility which is governed by English law, only US law can determine what a “US dollar” is for the purpose of payment obligations by the German borrower under such loan facility.”

            Have a look at http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/69600/sovereign-state-risk

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted April 1, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

            The Greek government has promised to pay its creditors in euros, and it has agreed that the contracts will be subject to English law, and it seems unlikely that an English court would agree that the repayment could be in anything other than the euros as issued by the ECB. But in any case most of the debt is now owed to EU institutions, and even if none of the private creditors tried to take their case to the ECJ the EU institutions certainly would try to do that, and even without citing any prior judgement by the English courts appointed by the Greek government and its creditors the judicial authority they would surely have a strong case. I don’t think Greek sovereign immunity can operate against the ECJ, not while Greece is the EU and its government and parliament have agreed that judgements of the ECJ shall be binding and final. Of course this is all assuming that the Greek government had tried to alter the terms of the bonds unilaterally, rather than further compounding with its creditors and securing their agreement that they would be repaid in new drachma or whatever.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      There have been serious suggestions that Greece, and also Germany, should leave the euro and then INSTANTANEOUSLY rejoin it.

      For example, here:

      http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/05/16/greece-germany-quit-euro/

      The quickness of the hand would deceive the eye, people would be puzzled how €180 billion or whatever of debt had suddenly disappeared – where can it be, is it up his sleeve? – and why the number of euros in their accounts had changed from the last time that they looked, and it would all happen so fast that nobody in the EU would even notice that its treaties had been breached.

      • Bill
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        @Outsider @ Dennis Cooper. Ah well, just a thought.

        It is odd, though, that once you are in the Euro you are stuck in it forever and a day.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted March 30, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          It’s not odd, it’s quite intentional and has been from the start. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte twice suggested that the EU treaties should be amended so that a country which had joined the euro could leave it without having to leave the EU altogether, but as far as I’m aware he got no public support from anybody of any significance within the EU – certainly not from Cameron – and it appears that eventually Merkel told him to stop saying it.

      • acorn
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        Denis. How about all the Eurozone states leave the Euro and instantaneously NOT rejoin it. If, before they left the Euro, they each introduced a transition currency; say, the New Drachma; New Peseta; New Lira etc, all of them fixed pegged to the Euro. These currencies would all be 100% redeemable for tax obligations in any and all Eurozone countries to start with. At this point, nothing would have changed fiscally throughout the Eurozone. All the new currencies would be one for one with the Euro.

        Then we could have some fun by telling the foreign exchange casino, that on a certain date, in the not too distant future, at a moment decided by the ECB, all the currency pegs would be removed and all the new currencies would float freely. By this time, the global FX markets would have done their homework on which countries owed how much to which country; priced up their offers for futures and options products and would be ready to rock.

        What say you Denis. Silly or what. I need some intellectual stimulus. I am bored solid already with this Mickey Mouse, Punch and Judy election nonsense. Christ! We have got another thirty odd days of this. I am tempted to vote for anybody who has never been to Westminster before.

  5. Ian wragg
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I feel there is some underlying game going on with Greece preparing to leave the Euro but in an orderly fashion
    Hence the 2 billion bung last week
    The sooner they revert to the Drachma the better for all. With such colossal debt they are never going to contribute to growth or expand their tourism. Recently we stopped at a Greek Island on a cruise and it was 6 Euros for a coffee in a run down cafe. Poverty was obvious everywhere
    The Greeks are being well and truly screwed and most of it is their own fault.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Ian

      Your recent experience in Greece echo’s what we have heard from a number of friends who have recently returned.

      Drinks and meals out exceptionally expensive.

      Not really a plan to encourage tourists !

      They will not be returning anytime soon.

  6. formula57
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    All who created the Eurozone have an obligation to each other and to everyone else to do whatever it takes to prevent it or any part of it doing material systemmic harm. If that means Greece enjoys a (continuing) free ride, so be it.

    German and other taxpayers should ackowledge that in being asked to pay the price of Eurozone membership by aiding Greece, they are required to contribute only their wealth and that is a substantially less expensive price than the one paid by the long suffering Greeks who have seen their lives blighted on a collosal scale for the folly of joining the Euro.

  7. Bert Young
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Simply let them go their own way .Greece is not able to follow the disciplines imposed on them ; they would be far happier plodding along and enjoying the sunshine .

  8. alan jutson
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    When the money runs out and no one will lend you any more because your credit is bad, things have got rather more than just serious.

    It would seem that the only solution would be for Greece to withdraw from the Euro, set up their own revalued currency once more, and start again.

    This would however be the last chance they have, as few if anybody would advance/lend them any more money, as so many are owed so much.

    I would guess that some sort of offer would need to be made to repay some of their Euro debt over an extended period, rather than completely default on the whole lot and incur the wrath of the EU, that is if it still wanted any sort of relationship with the EU.

    The people of Greece will be paying a heavy price for years for profligate spending of successive Governments, and tax evasion by many of its people.

    Perhaps the lesson here is to not get into debt in the first place.

    Mr Balls, Mr Miliband, The Greens, SNP, are you listening.!

    • DaveM
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      “This would however be the last chance they have, as few if anybody would advance/lend them any more money, as so many are owed so much.”

      That would be the case if you were talking about a person or a company, but so desperate is Brussels to keep the EU and the Eurozone intact that they’ll just keep lending until it gets to the stage where Greece’s debt is written off Third World style and the ECB just prints loads of money to repay the creditors.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be silly. that will never happen. The SNP want to join the Eu as an independent country for the bail out they could get when it all goes tits up!

  9. Mike Wilson
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Sorry, off topic, but I have to mention it in the hope that you, Mr. Redwood, will be able to get something done.

    Please, PLEASE get whoever is responsible for your campaign to start mentioning COUNCIL TAX.

    It doubled under Labour between 1997 and 2010. It has been (largely) frozen under the coalition. Giving £2600 every year to Wokingham Borough Council is a lot of money.

    It seems obvious to me that if Labour have been cornered into saying they won’t put up Income Tax, NI or VAT then, obviously, MASSIVE RISES IN COUNCIL TAX must happen under Labour.

    This scare tactic should be being used every day to force Labour to say they will not increase Council Tax again. One’s council tax bill is now a MAJOR ELEMENT of the tax we pay.

    • acorn
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Poor old Mike. £2,600 Council Tax in Wokingham; must be all of circa 0.3% of the current market value of the property. Asset rich, cash poor. The curse of the property owning democracy.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

        Daft statement. The price of a property is a function of the cost and availability of credit. If the banks put interest rates up to historic norms where mortgage rates were 8% – the price of my house would halve.

        The council tax wouldn’t.

        High council tax is the curse of everyone. I could rent my house and I’d still have to pay £2600 a year. Someone renting a 2 bed flat in Wokingham will be handing over a grand a year.

        • acorn
          Posted March 31, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          Remember, Council Tax is half Property Tax and half Poll Tax. That’s why you get a 25% discount for single occupancy; one Poll Tax instead of two.

          Are you suggesting, bringing back the Poll Tax !!!??? 😉

  10. oldtimer
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    It is a drama to be followed notwithstanding the distractions of the UK GE campaign. There are lessons here for UK politicians who seem to think that we have had too much austerity already and can now forget about eliminating the deficit. And there are lessons too for an electorate that seems to think that there is such a thing as a free lunch that someone else will pay for.

  11. majorfrustrtion
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    “I cannot ignore the drama” and there I was getting all excited and expecting some form of game plan. No – its time for the Greeks to call it a day – this sort of financial limbo just cannot go on. At least with an exit we know where we are. Supposedly the EU banking system can take the hit – possibly less expensive than giving in to Greece and then the other countries that would subsequently expect softer deals- Italy Portugal etc etc

  12. Chris
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I understand that Greece submitted the list of 18 reform proposals last Friday and this would suggest that you are incorrect to say that Greece has caused a delay.

    It is reported that Troika2 were not happy with this list, and this was fed back to Syriza over the weekend, hence apparently the emergency Cabinet Council meeting called by Syriza for 4 pm Sunday, and the emergency session of the Greek Parliament hastily arranged for today.

    Further details can be seen on the slog website.

  13. acorn
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The only realistic move for Greece is to leave the Eurosystem and the Eurozone. Slowly reintroduce the Drachma and make it redeemable for tax obligations. Do a currency deal and start using currency from Russia; China or Japan, or all three.

    Greek GDP will probably be around €180 billion this year. Have a look at what it owes on the chart. There is no way they are ever going to pay that back, while Greece’s means of paying it back, is being destroyed by the troika. http://openeurope.org.uk/blog/greece-bends-eurozone-will-find-short-term-agreement/

  14. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Greece will survive . it may not survive in the way it is expected, but whilst they can grow their own food and catch their own fish , the people will survive.It is an exemplar of how an economically problematic nation can work with or suck dry a conglomerate and in this respect is a leader. Leaders are precisely that ,events or people whom are followed. It is does not have to be the next person or event next to you on an immediate time scale which denotes the term ‘leader’ as this can be forged . Over a period the general sway can be seen and heavily dictate future events.Whilst a can can be kicked down the road and fall to bits a wheel travelling down a hill can continue to gather momentum. As a historian John will understand this.
    I am not a tory by nature, although am conservative. I do not like the private sector , I have state ,public service and integrity ingrained in my very being , but we have deviated too far from the principle and the choices, as our local MP David Nuttall has pointed out, are limited.I too want our own boundaries back, yet it may be too late to reverse the problems. I will be voting for David Nuttall , but against my desire for those British principles of fairness and justice which have been radically eroded over the last few decades. I have a choice whether I should bother at all or at least have a chance of some renewal without corruption.

    • DaveM
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Never too late. History tells you that too.

  15. petermartin2001
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Some day it may well happen that the euro will be scrapped,
    I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
    Of monetary offenders who may well end up zapped,
    And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
    There’s the Liberal Democrats who wish for EUnion,
    And the rule by those in Brussels instead of our London,
    And the neo-libs of Labour who follow Tony Blair —
    Of whose economic theories I really do despair!
    And those who’d sell our democracy without the slightest care,
    They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!

  16. agricola
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Little list, I would guess Greece is about to capsize.

    The EU is as culpable as Greece in that they let her into the Euro in the first place. Yet another case of political imperative overriding financial logic. The EU should pay for it’s stupidity by writing off Greek debt which I believe is about £180 Billion, though I stand correction on this. The Greeks should then leave the Euro and revert to the Drachma. She can then take care of her own economy by devaluation, so creating a more attractive destination for tourists.

    Correct though you are that Greece has an impact on us, it is largely because your government chooses to contribute via the ECB and the IMF with no control over it’s end use. With an election pending I would much rather we discussed problems closer to home, such as :-

    1. Immigration, how can it be controlled whilst a member of the EU.
    2. Our relationship with and membership of the EU.
    3. Measures to remove all illegal immigrants.
    4. Future energy generation.
    5. The commercial and personal impact of Green Energy and the Green Lobby.
    6 Defence of the Realm.
    7. HS2, it’s commercial viability and alternatives.
    8. The parlous state of our roads.
    9. The virtue of wealth creation in an humanitarian society.
    10.Taxation as a means of encouraging manufacturing industry.
    11. Blight of Pay Day lending.
    12. Banks as promoters of commercial activity and realistic links between what they lend at and interest rates they pay to depositors.
    13. Overseas Aid and should it be linked to GDP, plus overt auditing on it’s use.
    14. Education as an investment in the future.
    15. NHS and how we can achieve free at the time of need in the most efficient way.
    16. Mandatory commercial invoice payments at 30 days as a stimulus to the economy.

    I am sure people will come up with other headings, all of which merit more concern than the future of Greece. Understand that we can only be of help to Greece and others if we attain high standards in most of the above.

  17. Nick
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    A long article, and not one word about the cause. Instead financial voodoo.

    Greece is in a mess because it borrowed and spent. You’re proposing more borrow and spend. If you proposed solution would work, then Greece wouldn’t be in the mess. Bonkers.

    So what’s happening in the UK? The same. You’re running up massive debts. The pension debts alone have almost reached 10 trillion, but you won’t admit to that. You inherited 5,010 bn of pension debts, and you’ve partially defaulted. CPI not RPI is 15% cut. Increasing retirement age is another 5-10% cut. Not that you will tell people directly its as a result of spending all their money. Nope politicians blame the victim for living longer.

    So the debt has escalated even after those cuts. It was going up at 636 bn a year. 5 years on its carried on. Then the AA corporate bond rate that the ONS uses has dramatically fallen, so the debt has rocketed even after the cuts you’ve imposed unilaterally.

    Not surprising MPs have a funded scheme is it.

    So you’ll kick that can down the road and its too late to fix.

    You should have done what you said you would at the last election and published the number. Given everyone a personal statement as to government debt. Then you could have blamed labour. But its too late. You screwed it up.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Mainly true.
      Nobody mentions how the state suddenly reneges on pensions at 65! If one of the insurance companies did this, it would be deemed breach of contract – look at Equitable Life! Yet the government (your Tory-led government) does it with barely a mention in the footnotes! And Labour and the Libdems would do the same before stopping benefits to recent immigrants!

  18. lojolondon
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    John, you are correct in everything you say, but I have no doubt that there is no way back, Greece has to leave the Euro. This is the start of the good news, because when they re-introduce the Drachma, tourists flood in for cheap holidays, employment takes off and the Greek economy starts to work again, that is when the PIIS and France will start to look over their shoulders. The main threat to the EU and the Euro is not that Greece will continue to default, it is that Greece will default and do much better out on their own. There is so little democracy in Europe these days that I find myself cheering for every little morsel!

  19. rick hamilton
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    It’s not a very original thought, but democracy always ends up this way. Those who do not think about what drives the economy or have any concern about national debt will naturally vote for more welfare, more public services and more state employment until in the end there are too many passengers and insufficient wealth creators to pay for it all.

    In the UK Labour have ruined the economy three times in my lifetime and every time the Tories have then been elected to sort out the mess. Labour then spend five or ten years in opposition screaming about nasty capitalists, unfairness, tax the rich, etc until things start to look prosperous again. At which point the electorate lose their senses again and Labour get re-elected on the usual hollow promises. It has been so predictable for 70 years. Perhaps it will change now that coalitions appear more likely.

    However in the EU the people in charge appear to be all socialists with no conservatives to sort out the mess. The only conclusion you can draw is that the EU is doomed to be an economic failure like all socialist constructs: it is just a matter of time.

  20. outsider
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, Tax avoidance or evasion really is a big issue in Greece, not just a hackneyed excuse as in the UK.

    There are many reasons why income tax payments are unduly low: history, a high level of self-employment, corrupt officials and tax privileges for the important shipping industry, which is literally much more mobile that the City (the UK’s equivalent sector).

    As a result, the tax system has been damagingly skewed. Taxes on employment are unreasonably high, with a predictable impact on jobs, and heavy taxes have recently been introduced on property, preventing any recovery through building development.

    Greece may be an example of a country that could benefit quickly by switching to relatively low flat-rate taxes. But it would not be quick enough to deal with the immediate financial issues even if the anti-rich Syriza had the courage and imagination to do it.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Corrupt local governments in Spain too. Little wonder they have had problems too.

  21. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Considering what is happening in Greece it makes me sick to hear Labour prattling on about “austerity”, but even more so when it is the SNP trying to convince the Scots that they are having a really hard time of it, and thanks to the Tories of course.

    If Salmond had got what he wanted Scotland would no longer have the pound sterling as a “millstone” around its neck, and not only Scotland but the rest of the UK would now be suffering in the euro in same way as the Greeks, real “austerity”. Yes, that’s the same pound sterling which he now pretends to love and which an independent Scotland would still have a right to share with the continuing UK, in the same way as he now pretends to love the Queen. Unfortunately too many Scots are taken in by all this.

    I said yesterday that it seemed unlikely to me that anything will happen in the next five weeks to have a significant impact on the present opinion poll ratings of the parties and the overall outcome of the election; but maybe a triumphalist SNP overplaying its hand could be such a thing as far as the outcome of the election is concerned, notwithstanding that even if its support in Scotland was to halve that would only be reflected by changes at the 2% level in the UK-wide opinion polls.

  22. Gary
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    why is it suffering to live within your means? Is living within your means”austerity”?

    Why is it virtuous to print unlimited debt and call it money?

    Greece spent like a drunk, the govt ran up massive deficits, and now when the piper comes calling, poor Greece is suffering the hangover called austerity. Austerity is just another word for removing the credit card from a spendthrift

    why is Greece called the put upon party , when it lied to enter the EU using derivative chicanery?

    In this madness, up is down, black is white. As long as you hate the EU you can be excused for taking leave of your senses.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 30, 2015 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      I have little sympathy for the Greeks, but it is undeniable that they are suffering genuine “austerity”. The answer to your question “Is living within your means austerity?” obviously depends upon your means, if they are low enough then you go beyond “austerity” to starvation and death.

  23. Iain Gill
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Funny I am watching Miliband live at the moment.

    He doesn’t seem to understand the immigration problem. His solution is to stop immigrants undercutting in the unskilled sector. Sorry allowing masses of people in, with any skill and any skill level that is already in oversupply is the problem. Its not just the lowest paid. And its not just Europe, its also the mass supply of work visas to India.

    And he goes on to claim being able to solve all this while keeping Europe status quo. I don’t think so.

  24. Qubus
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Dear JR,
    I hope that the Conservatives will remember to publicise the note that Liam Burne left in the Treasury when Labour last left office

  25. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    JR, as an irrelevant and rather technical aside, I wonder whether you can recall any debate on what seems to be a flaw in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, that the Prime Minister can still force an early general election at a time of his choosing by getting the sovereign to prorogue Parliament for a couple of weeks, so that the 14 day period allowed for an alternative, or indeed the same, government to get a vote of confidence in the Commons would be exhausted without Parliament ever having sat and MPs having had the opportunity to vote.

    I happen to notice earlier today that in Section 19 of the Bank of England Act 1998 this is covered by saying that:

    “In reckoning the period of 28 days for the purposes of subsection (4), no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which either House is adjourned for more than 4 days.”

    but was the omission of a comparable provision in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act just sloppy drafting on the part of Clegg, or was it a deliberate decision to put in this loophole which seems to entirely defeat the object of the Act?

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 31, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I’ve gone back to check where I read this being pointed out, and I find that Lord Norton seems to agree that this device would work:

      https://nortonview.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/we-live-in-a-new-era-of-fixed-term-parliaments/#comment-8424

      When asked:

      “Re method 1, I’ve heard it suggested that the PM could use the Royal Prerogative to prorogue Parliament for two and a bit weeks, thus preventing a confidence vote in a proposed new Government and forcing an election. Is that correct? And couldn’t and shouldn’t the Queen in such a situation refuse to prorogue, as the clear intention of Parliament is that there should be an opportunity for a second vote?”

      he replied:

      “The prerogative power to prorogue Parliament is retained under the FTPA. It would thus be possible for the PM to advise that Parliament be prorogued for at least 14 days following the loss of a no confidence vote. The Queen would be expected to act on her Prime Minister’s advice. To exercise independent judgment would be to draw the monarchy into political controversy. The judgment on the Prime Minister’s action could be made by the electorate.”

      I’ve also had a quick look to see if there is any Act which would mean that days when Parliament was prorogued would automatically not count towards the 14 days – in which case, that explicit provision in Section 19 of the Bank of England Act 1998 would be largely redundant – and I find that the potentially relevant legislation is the Interpretation Act 1978:

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1978/30

      but that does not cover the situation where an Act specifies a time period as a number of days without excluding days when Parliament is not sitting for one reason or another.

      The point of this rather tortuous discussion being that apparently a Prime Minister with a small majority could still threaten obstructive backbenchers with an early general election if they didn’t fall into line and vote through a Bill that he wanted to be passed; which is what both Heath and Major did to get EEC/EC/EU treaties approved, but which could conceivably work the other way if europhile Tory MPs joined with the oppostion over some issue, for example to try to block a Bill for an EU referendum.

  26. Iain Gill
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    On Greece. The happiest people I ever met in my entire life were subsistence Greek fishermen and their families. First met them long ago well before they were in Europe. Kids running round with no shoes on their feet, few chickens running around, but surviving and feeding their family on the fish they could bring in. Somehow I bet there are still there, and lucky for them nothing the international money people do can hurt them. We have a lot to learn from those families.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Iain

      Do not wish to spoil memories but:

      Given they will now be in the EU, they probably need a license to fish now, with perhaps not enough of a quota to even feed the family, let alone sell.

      That or the big factory ships (who have licenses) would have cleaned them out of local fish.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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