By Matthew Barrett
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Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, and famously one of the most Europhile voices in the Party, has said that Greece is "quite likely" to leave the Eurozone. Considering the possibility of Greece electing one of the more stridently anti-austerity parties in its upcoming elections, Mr Clarke told Sky News:
"The Greek voters have really got to face up to reality. It’s very difficult for them, they’re having a terrible time. These are hardships inflicted on them by the responsibility of their old politicians. But they can’t just vote to say could people please just keep giving us some money so we don’t have to change anything."
"If they get a hopeless lot of rather cranky extremists elected at the next election then they will default on their debt. Everybody says they’ll leave the €uro, actually that’s quite likely but it doesn’t necessary follow. The problem then is that for the Greeks that would be disastrous, they could encounter real poverty, I think. No one knows exactly what will happen in the rest of Europe, but the banking system is in tatters, it’s weak in very many places, we don’t know what the knock-on effects could be, they could be very serious, and of course, people will start barking at the door of Portugal, Ireland, Spain and here in Britain we actually do have consequences where markets get into turmoil. I honestly hope that the Greeks will vote responsibly and I hope that we can avoid turmoil, it’s the unknown that everybody feared and once the markets fear the unknown you get into terrible turmoil."
Mr Clarke also had harsh words for voices in both the Conservative and Labour parties, who have raised the possibility of a European referendum:
"I can’t think of anything more irrelevant to the present situation actually, nor personally can I think of anything more disastrous than the British leaving the European Union and deciding that now is the moment to take up Splendid Isolation alongside Iceland and others. I don’t think that has got … it’s got very little to do with the present crisis."
Finally, Mr Clarke said politicians calling for a referendum – pointed equally at the Conservative right and Ed Miliband for considering a Labour referendum offer – were "irresponsible":
“Fortunately our irresponsible politicians are firmly in opposition and remain there. Britain has probably got more confidence in its economic management of the markets of the world than practically any other western power. But we’ve got years, actually, of heavy lifting to do before we get back to normality here.”