Belfast Telegraph

UK 'as ready as it can be' for Greece to leave eurozone

By David Hughes

The UK will be "as prepared as we can be" for the possibility of Greece crashing out of the eurozone, with contingency plans being drawn up by the Government, Downing Street has said.

The Government wants to see a solution to the crisis, but acknowledged work was being led by the Treasury to prepare for the consequences of "Grexit".

Greece's central bank has warned that the country would face an exit from the euro bloc and even the European Union if it fails to reach a deal with bailout creditors by the end of the month.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman told reporters at Westminster that the Government was taking "all steps to prepare".

Meanwhile, David Cameron is continuing his diplomatic dash around Europe with talks in Italy and Luxembourg to bolster support for his EU reform bid.

The Prime Minister is meeting Matteo Renzi in Milan, then flying to Luxembourg for a working dinner with Xavier Bettel as he lobbies leaders over the renegotiation plans.

Mr Cameron believes treaty reform is required in order to deliver significant change in Brussels and is aiming to speak with all of the 27 other EU leaders ahead of next week's European Council summit.

Italy has already joined ranks with the UK in pushing for reforms to boost EU competitiveness and cut red tape, and Mr Renzi shares Mr Cameron's concerns over the slow pace of negotiations on a proposed EU/US free trade deal.

But there may be friction over the issue of migration, as the UK has refused to take a proposed quota of the migrants arriving in the country after making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from north Africa in ramshackle boats.

With further trips to Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as meetings in London with Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny and European Parliament president Martin Schulz, Downing Street expects the Prime Minister to have spoken to more than 20 leaders by the end of the week.

Ireland's Foreign Minister has said it has started to make contingency plans to deal with a possible British exit.

Dara Murphy told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "The core focus at the moment is the strategy around negotiation to play a part in keeping the UK in the European Union. But, yes, it would be remiss of us, given the possibility that our largest trading partner may be exiting the European Union, that is something we, of course, are looking at." Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said Mr Kenny would be advising against treaty change in talks with Mr Cameron. He told the programme: "I don't think he'll be very enthusiastic about treaty change because they are unpredictable, they create uncertainty."

Belfast Telegraph