Take it from Varoufakis – Brexit will be a Greek tragedy

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Sunday 11 June 2017 17:26 BST
This spring he gave the stark advice: Britain should “avoid negotiating with Brussels at all costs”
This spring he gave the stark advice: Britain should “avoid negotiating with Brussels at all costs”

With Brexit negotiations about to begin in the shadow of a hung parliament, the advice of the former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, comes to mind. This spring he gave the stark advice: Britain should “avoid negotiating with Brussels at all costs”.

Varoufakis knows what he is talking about, as he was finance minister for the Syriza government in 2015 and in that role had to negotiate with the EU and the IMF over the extension of Greece’s debts. The terms offered were so harsh that the Greek government campaigned successfully for a “no” vote in the July 2015 referendum on the terms of a further bailout. He resigned immediately after the vote when the Greek Prime Minister revealed to him that he intended to betray the referendum result.

Yanis Varoufakis is also an expert on game theory and its application to economic systems. If anyone knows how to conduct high-stakes negotiations, it should be him.

It is also worth reflecting on the dire state of Greek society and the Greek economy after three rounds of bailouts by the EU over the past eight years. Unemployment is still at 23 per cent, and since 2011 more than 300,000 young people have emigrated to find work out of a total population of 11 million.

That a man such as Varoufakis advises us that to negotiate with the EU is “to fall into the trap” should give us cause to stop and reconsider.

Otto Inglis


So Theresa May has the opportunity to practice her negotiating skills with the DUP before she embarks on Brexit. Will she be able to convince the DUP that she will walk away if she does not get a good deal, or – by her own analysis – is her negotiating stance fatally flawed?

She will clearly need to demonstrate her strength of character since the 27 European countries will be watching closely for any sign of weakness in her negotiating skills.

Incidentally, are the skills needed for negotiating so very far removed from those needed for debating?

John Harrison

Someone ought to tell Theresa May that the word “Unionist” in “Conservative and Unionist Party” has nothing to do with unity. It originated in 1886 when Joseph Chamberlain and the Liberal Unionists allied with the Conservatives in opposition to home rule for Ireland.

Rosemary Morlin

It has been intriguing to note Conservative proposals to form a government with DUP support on a confidence-and-supply basis, especially with its obvious implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland.

That process is already under considerable strain following the collapse of the power-sharing agreement earlier this year and UK and Irish governments are engaged in mediating between the DUP and Irish nationalists to restore the Northern Irish government.

However, it is scarcely credible that the UK government can continue to act as the mediator, an honest broker acting in a neutral capacity, when the DUP is going to have such a pivotal role in that very government. It should also be remembered that in 1992, when John Major found himself short of a parliamentary majority he did not resort to forming an alliance with the DUP as he wanted to continue to be seen as even-handed.

If May continues on this misguided path she will clearly make the current political crisis in Northern Ireland even worse, just so that her weak and wobbly administration can stagger on.

Alex Orr

Youth rebellion

Nick Clegg betrayed young people in a massive way when, having been elected largely by them on his pledge to cut student fees, he did exactly the opposite when he got into power.

A huge number of young people voted in our recent election. Draw your own conclusions.

Patrick Wise


Ruth Davidson has clarified that the Scottish Tories won’t split from the main UK party – but does her EU position distance her from Theresa May?

The possibility of an autumn election means Davidson can’t risk losing ground. If Nicola Sturgeon finds a face-saving way to retreat – temporarily – from indyref2, Davidson will need more than anti-independence on which to campaign.

Does May’s preference for a hard Brexit makes her increasingly toxic? Davidson apparently supports single-market access and doesn’t share May’s anti-immigration stance. While the Scottish Tory leader’s softer Brexit views chime well with many here, Davidson will have attracted many euro-sceptic votes last week.

Davidson must remain principled. However if she uses her 13 Westminster votes to pressurise Downing Street into pursuing a softer Brexit, she should tread carefully.

Without a special fisheries deal, such a stance will lose her support, particularly in north-east Scotland where she holds several seats which, with a resurgent Labour Party, may be difficult to replace elsewhere.

The Scottish Tory leader may well distance herself from a perhaps fatally wounded May – but Davidson holding an EU position deemed credible by the majority of Scots will be crucial to the Scottish Conservatives’ long-term survival.

Martin Redfern

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