All of Europe is now preparing in earnest for a Greek and Spanish exodus, but none more warily than the British.
Citizens of EU countries do not need work permits to settle and work in the UK. And the British, who run one of the most generous socialized health and welfare states in Europe, are getting really nervous. It is not only possible, but really easy for EU citizens to claim free health treatment on arrival and to register for UK social security payments.
British Home Secretary, Teresa May, told the Daily Telegraph today that the UK authorities were exploring emergency immigration controls in case of a Greek exit; those same controls might also be needed if further economic turbulence develops in countries like Spain, causing an exodus of unemployed workers.
a privilege that has been a long time coming all over Europe. Prior to the 1980s every country ran their own border controls. Cars often queued for hours to pass from one country to another, while officials checked passports. Under EU law however, inhabitants of the Union are allowed to travel freely between each country. Post-transition, the UK has been exceptional in maintaining some degree of border integrity, so what May has in mind goes much further than passport checks.
The Home Secretary says that the Government is already “looking at the trends” to determine whether immigration from beleaguered European countries is increasing. While there is no evidence of increased migration at present, she adds that it is “difficult to say how it is going to develop in the coming weeks.”
She was asked in an interview about whether Greek tax evasion and corruption were responsible for the country’s current difficulties, and she made no bones about assigning blame and indicating her disapproval of the Greek government’s handling of the crisis. When asked if it was payback time, she said, “Absolutely.”
The internal bickering around Greece’s future appears either to be preparing the ground for exit or for one final attempt to enforce the conditions of the EU-IMF bailout. But what is clear is that Greece is in the final hours of their agonizing descent into fiscal chaos, and the outcome won’t just affect the Greeks, but the rest of the European population as well.
To say nothing of the US banking system. Stay tuned for Wall Street’s wild ride.