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Is Britain Going the Way of Greece?

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By:Ralph Berry | August 29, 2018
800px-Rt_Hon_Boris_Johnson_MP,_Secretary_of_State_for_Foreign_and_Commonwealth_Affairs,_UK_(2)

The War for the Tory Succession is about to resume in all its fury, as the combatants leave their summer quarters and prepare for the fall campaign. The War Cry will be voiced by Boris Johnson, who has a Monday column in the Daily Telegraph paid at £275,000 a year. It is a bully pulpit, and Boris, who is out of Government and is ungovernable, can say what he likes. Last week, to general surprise, he chose to write on otters, who have been seen on the increase after years of falling numbers. Was Boris taking his cue from Evelyn Waugh? In Scoop comes this great spoof line: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

But on Monday Boris left the Nature reserve and abandoned the questing vole to its fate. He turns to Greek tragedy, meaning in the first place the tragedy of Greece and by extension and warning the fate lying in wait for Britain. May's Chequers Plan, over which Boris and David Davies resigned from the  Cabinet, would leave Britain still tied to Brussels rules but without a say in them.

He gives a telling account of Greece today. The economy has shrunk by 25%, unemployment is ruinously high, anti-EU graffiti are everywhere, there is no chance of paying off the nation's debts. Simply, Greece is in the hands of the money-lenders, a class known through the ages for its cruelty. The Greek tragedy is, as Yannis Varoufakis says, that they never had the nerve to tell their EU masters to get lost.

“This has a direct read-across for Britain.” Under May's Chequers proposals Britain would turn into a rules-taker from Brussels, with no say on those rules. “Why are we proposing to turn the UK, in important respects, into the perpetual punk of Brussels? Chuck Chequers.”

Those last two words are the rallying-call of the rebels. They will reach out to the wider public. Boris's words have an older resonance: “Aux armes, citoyens!

 

[Image via Chatham House [CC BY 2.0]]

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