HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  July 3, 2016

Will Brexit Lead to Grexit?

Dimitri Lascaris says so-called leftist or socialist governments throughout the EU are engaging in self-immolation by embracing austerity, and then become wildly unpopular with the electorate
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

I support The Real News Network because it is not Conservative, it is not Liberal; it is Real. - David Pear
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist and activist. After working in the New York and Paris offices of a major Wall Street law firm, Dimitri became a class action lawyer in Canada. His practice focused on shareholder rights, environmental wrongs and human rights. In 2012, Canadian Lawyer Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada, and in 2013, Canadian Business Magazine named him one of the 50 most influential persons in Canadian business. Dimitri ran for the Green Party in Canadaís 2015 federal election and has served as the Justice Critic in the Green Party of Canada shadow cabinet.


SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

With the Brexit vote clinched by those who voted to leave the E.U., the possibility of a Grexit has reemerged in the minds of some. Greece has far more reason to leave the E.U. than the U.K. In a recent survey done by Pew Research, E.U.'s favorability has dropped by double digits in the continent. In Greece more than any other E.U. country, 71 percent of those who took part in the survey said that they had unfavorable views of the E.U.--far higher than the U.K. Further, more than 90 percent disapprove the way in which the E.U. has handled economic issues and the migrant crisis, where the Greeks bear the brunt of that burden.

Joining me now to discuss this is Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a securities class action action lawyer. He has recently been appointed justice critic in the Green Party of Canada's shadow cabinet.

Thanks for joining me, Dimitri.


PERIES: So, Dimitri, what are the implications of the Brexit on Greece?

LASCARIS: Well, I think to understand sort of how the Greek people are reacting and how this is likely to affect the way things unfold in the future, a little bit of economic context would be useful. And for that I think we can thank Matthew Klein of The Financial Times, who just authored an article in which he examines household consumption in Greece and the savings rate in Greece over the last ten years. And these are really quite startling figures. Klein cites statistics showing that in Greece real household consumption has dropped by an astonishing 27 percent--more than a quarter--since the peak, which occurred in around 2008, just before, a couple of years before the austerity program began in earnest.

A 27 percent drop is really--we're talking about a radical alteration in living standards. And just to give you some perspective, in the Great Recession of 2008-2009, which is widely regarded as having been the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, real household consumption dropped "only" (with the only in quotation marks)--6 percent in Greece. So since then we've seen something that's more than four times larger. It recovered back almost to its peak in 2009, household consumption, and then it just dropped like a rock.

So with so radical a reduction in household consumption, it must be the case that Greek households are spending far less than they were before the Greek economy was destroyed by austerity.

Now, Klein does something interesting after looking at the household consumption: he then looks at the savings rate in Greece. And he cites statistics showing that the savings rate Greece was an average of about 6 percent in the three years preceding the crisis, which started around 2010, but that it is now -6 percent.

So Greeks--what does this all mean? Greeks are eating into their savings at an alarming rate, and they're doing so despite the fact that their household consumption has fallen to an extreme degree. So Greeks are watching their savings evaporate even as they are enduring a drastically reduced standard of living all at the same time.

And what happens, one must ask, when these savings run out? The question is all the more pressing, that question, because of course the social benefits upon which the poor and the hard-pressed depend in Greece are being eviscerated by the austerity program, and most particularly pensions, which are very important to sustaining poor Greeks.

PERIES: So what happens when the savings run out?

LASCARIS: What happens when the savings run out, especially when you have such weakened levels of social support, is an explosion or a collapse or both at the same time. That's where we're heading in Greece. And the Greek people understand this, I think, all too well. They're living it on a day-to-day basis.

So it's against this backdrop that the Greek people are sizing up what it means to be in the E.U. and what the implications of the Brexit vote are. And it's not at all surprising. I don't think anybody should be remotely surprised by the fact that there is such an extraordinarily high disapproval rating for the E.U., and in particular the manner in which it's handling the economy in Greece.

So at the same time, fortunately for us, a poll came out which allows us some insight into how the Greek people are reacting to the Brexit vote. The poll found that--it came out in the last few days--the poll found that 45 percent of respondents believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on Europe. Twenty-seven percent, interestingly, view it as a positive development. And 16 percent appear to be neutral. So although those who view Brexit as a negative for the E.U.--not necessarily Greece, but for the E.U.--they outnumber those who view it as a positive, in fact, less than a majority of Greeks view the Brexit vote as being a negative.

This poll also looked at attitudes towards the political parties in Greece at the current time, [and this was] perhaps even more telling. And what it showed was that the New Democracy center-right party now enjoys a 6.5 point lead over the governing SYRIZA Party--or at least it's the main partner in the coalition government. The New Democracy Party's at 30 percent. SYRIZA is at 6.5 percent. Running a distant third is the neonazi Golden Dawn Party at 6.5 percent. Just behind them at 5.5 percent are the Communists. And then, neck and neck with each other at 2.5 percent are the coalition partner, the populist right-wing coalition partner of SYRIZA, ANEL, and the party that was cofounded by Costas Lapavitsas, Popular Unity, and other rebels from the SYRIZA Party last year after the referendum was disregarded by the government. They also were at 2.5 percent.

So what you're watching, essentially, in Greece is a drama that's played out throughout the E.U.: these leftist or so-called leftist or socialist governments engaging in a self-immolation by embracing austerity and then becoming wildly unpopular with the electorate. And SYRIZA, like PASOK, the purportedly social democratic party that preceded SYRIZA, appears to be going the way of the dodo bird. Now, it's at 23.5 percent, so it still enjoys a significant degree of popular support, but that is eroding rapidly. And I think what we're going to see in the near future if we continue down this path in Greece is increasing antipathy towards SYRIZA and even more antipathy towards the European Union, and in particular the eurozone.

PERIES: And, Dimitri, one thing that the Brexit vote has evoked is a discussion about reformulating, redesigning, rethinking the European Union. You think that's something that's going to be favored by the Greeks?

LASCARIS: Well, I think the Greeks would be wildly supportive of anything that results in a relaxation of the austerity policies. As we've seen, however, the electorate of the Greek will has virtually no impact on policymaking in the E.U. That was demonstrated in rather brutal fashion in July of last year after over 60 percent of Greeks rejected a less severe austerity program than was ultimately imposed on them.

So it's interesting, it's very instructive to look at how the E.U. elite has reacted to the Brexit vote, in particular in the context of Portugal, because Portugal late last year elected a government, a socialist minority government, that appears to have some level of support from leftist parties and the Greens, enough to maintain power for the time being. And initially that party said that they were going to roll back the severe austerity that had been imposed on Portugal. And Portugal is widely viewed as being the country that is most at risk after Greece in the eurozone because of the debt and austerity and the rest of it.

So what happened with the last 48 hours, well after the E.U. elite in the IMF had time to digest the results in Britain? The IMF issued a statement urging the Portuguese government to redouble its commitment to austerity. And Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister of Germany, caused quite an uproar when he told the press in the last couple of days that if Portugal didn't stick by the austerity dictates of the current bailout, it would be forced to come hat-in-hand to the E.U. to beg for yet another bailout. And that caused quite a bit of outrage in Portugal.

So at this stage there's absolutely no indication, as far as I can see, that the E.U. elite has learned any lessons from the Greek referendum in July of last year or the Brexit vote, both of which were certainly, at least to some degree--this isn't the whole story, I think, but to some degree they were an expression of discontent with the economic policies of the E.U. and with the fundamentally antidemocratic character of the E.U. So at this stage there's little reason to believe that the E.U. elite is going to draw the lessons that ought to be drawn from these two votes.

PERIES: Yeah. I think they're more in the self-destruction mode.

Alright. I thank you so much for joining us, Dimitri. And I thank you for your report.

We'll be in Greece next week, both Dimitri and I, at Lesbos Island at the conference on refugees, which we will be livestreaming, and hope you join us both then.

LASCARIS: Thank you, Sharmini.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

Corbyn Allies in Labour Attacked For Supporting Palestinian Struggle
Kochs and ALEC Behind Criminalization of Dissent Bills in Five States
West's Anti-Russian Fervor Will Help Putin Win Election On Sunday
Stephen Hawking: Fighter for Progressive Politics
Paul Jay: Threats facing Humanity, Russiagate & the Role of Independent Media
Corbyn Smeared as 'Russian Stooge' for Requesting Evidence on Poisoned Spy
Chief in Charge of Internal Affairs To Retire from Baltimore Police
Corbyn Calls for Evidence in Escalating Poison Row
Sanders Resolution Against War in Yemen Challenged by Mattis
Senate Expands 'Lobbyist Bill' to Deregulate Real Estate
Expressions of Afro-Asian Solidarity during the Cold War
Economic Benefits of Tax Cuts Should Have Arrived - Where Are They?
Trump's Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Is Another World Possible? - Leo Panitch on RAI (4/4)
Students Demand Leaders Address the Root Causes of Gun Violence
Far-Right Ministers in Chile's New Government Placed in Sensitive Positions
Israeli Military Strangles Its Own Weapons Manufacturer to Privatize It
Not Without Black Women
Newly Tapped Sec of State Mike Pompeo Comes with Deep Ties to the Koch Brothers
The CIA's New Torturer-in-Chief
Anti-Pipeline Indigenous 'Mass Mobilization' Has Begun
UN Rapporteur: US Sanctions Cause Death in Venezuela
Colombia's Conservatives Make Gains in Congress Vote Amid Fraud Allegations
Wilkerson: Trump Won't Make Peace with North Korea
The Rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Class Struggle in the UK Labour Party - RAI with Leo Panitch (3/4)
Western Governments Whitewash Saudi Dictator MBS as 'Reformer'
US Cowardice Prevents Middle East Peace
Should China Maintain its Non-interference Policy toward Africa?
Bills to Ban Styrofoam and Crude Oil Terminals Pass Baltimore City Council
Elites Impose Education Policies They Would Never Accept for their Children,, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting