The chance of Greece quitting the euro has risen sharply. But a so-called Grexit can still be stopped, despite dramatic weekend developments which saw Athens declare a six-day bank holiday after talks with its creditors broke down.The most obvious way of avoiding a Grexit is if the people vote to accept the bailout terms offered by euro zone countries and the International Monetary Fund in a referendum set for July 5. But even if they do that, it’s not certain Greece will avoid a return to the drachma.
There are two schools of thought about how the euro zone should play its negotiations with Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister. One is that other leaders and the European Central Bank should back him into a corner. The other is that they should give the radical left Syriza leader time.
Matteo Renzi’s Plan A is to push through domestic reforms, hope the European Central Bank manages to get inflation ticking up, and keep his fingers crossed the Italian economy stops shrinking. But if this fails, a mega wealth tax, debt restructuring and/or exit from the euro beckons.
Italy could do with some market pressure. Rome’s bond yields are now lower than they were before February’s inconclusive election. But as the politicians scheme, the economy burns. With markets calm, there is insufficient urgency to crack on with long-needed economic and political reform.