You would expect the Foreign Office mandarins to be prepared for every eventuality – but here’s a doomsday scenario which might just happen.
British embassies are now taking active steps to prepare for the possibility of the euro collapsing – something that’s no longer as inconceivable as it once was.
The Foreign Office is preparing contingency plans to help expats from the Costa del Sol and the Algarve who could be stranded without cash – or caught up in riots and civil unrest.
As every major developed economy hits Bass’s Keynesian Endgame, the status quo is set to change dramatically. Nowhere is this climax playing out louder than in Europe and the implicit solution of Germany-uber-alles (while seemingly inevitable though nevertheless lengthy in execution) is likely to not sit well with many of the EMU nations. To wit, The Telegraph today reports that Britain’s Foreign Office is advising its overseas embassies to draw up plans to help expats should the collapse of the Euro turn explosive. Almost incredibly, a senior minister has revealed that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is matter of time.
British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain.
As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.
Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.
The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.
A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.
“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told the Daily Telegraph.
Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.
Greece has seen several outbreaks of civil disorder as its government struggles with its huge debts. British officials think similar scenes cannot be ruled out in other nations if the euro collapses.
Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.
While European leaders still say there is no need to draw up a Plan B, some of the world’s biggest banks, and their supervisors, are doing just that.
“We cannot be, and are not, complacent on this front,” Andrew Bailey, a regulator at Britain’s Financial Services Authority, said this week. “We must not ignore the prospect of a disorderly departure of some countries from the euro zone,” he said.
Banks including Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital and Nomura issued a cascade of reports this week examining the likelihood of a breakup of the euro zone. “The euro zone financial crisis has entered a far more dangerous phase,” analysts at Nomura wrote on Friday. Unless the European Central Bank steps in to help where politicians have failed, “a euro breakup now appears probable rather than possible,” the bank said.
Major British financial institutions, like the Royal Bank of Scotland, are drawing up contingency plans in case the unthinkable veers toward reality, bank supervisors said Thursday. United States regulators have been pushing American banks like Citigroup and others to reduce their exposure to the euro zone. In Asia, authorities in Hong Kong have stepped up their monitoring of the international exposure of foreign and local banks in light of the European crisis.