25th Mar 2023

UK prepared to seal border against Greeks

  • The UK is prepared to restrict the rights of Greeks from entering the country should Greece exit the euro. (Photo: Paul Vallejo)

The UK revealed Tuesday (3 July) it is prepared to seal its borders from Greeks and other eurozone citizens caught up in the fall-out of the sovereign debt crisis in the event of “extraordinary stresses and strains”.

“You have to plan, you have to have contingencies, you have to be ready for anything – there is so much uncertainty in our world. But I hope those things don't become necessary,” UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs at a home affairs committee.

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UK ministers have been working on different scenarios. Under the worst case scenario, reports the Guardian, a Greek exit from the euro would provoke a near-total collapse in its economy and result in many thousands seeking work elsewhere in the EU.

The prime minister confirmed, after being posed the question directly by an MP, that he would be prepared to restrict the rights of Greeks to enter the UK.

“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe, to keep our banking system strong, to keep our economy robust,” responded Cameron.

The UK’s border contingency plans on a possible Greek-euro exit have been in the works since May. At the time, the UK’s home secretary Theresa May did not foresee any increase in the number of Greeks entering the country.

The Financial Times reports the home secretary is also looking at any possible increased migration flows from other troubled eurozone states. However, May said they have not seen any evidence of an increase of non-Greek EU migrants.

An OECD international migration report released in June claims net migration in the UK has increased for all foreign nationals except for EU-15 citizens. Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal are among the EU-15 - those countries that were members of the EU before its big expansion to the east in 2004.

EU rules entitle member state citizens to travel and live in other EU member states, including Britain.

The European Commission, at the end of April, issued the UK a warning to comply with EU rules on the free movement of EU citizens and their families across the EU or face legal action. The UK has until July to respond after requesting an extension to the Commission's initial two month deadline.

The UK is home to around two million citizens from other EU countries.

All member states apart from Ireland, the UK, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus, are part of the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone.

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