greek referendum 2015 Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Very Greek Brexit?

Unlike the United Kingdom, Greece is one of the European Union’s smaller economies, notorious for its weak institutions and economy, and a net recipient of EU funds. And yet the Grexit near-exit from the EU in 2015 offers important lessons for the final stage of Brexit negotiations.

ATHENS – As the Brexit train lurches forward with no clear direction, it is useful to look back at another dramatic episode in European Union politics for possible guidance: the Grexit that never happened. Although almost everyone during the euro crisis between 2010 and 2015 was convinced that Greece would have to leave the eurozone, if not the EU, the country remains a member of both.

On the face of it, there is not much to compare. Unlike the United Kingdom, Greece is one of the EU’s smaller economies, notorious for its weak institutions and economy, and a net recipient of EU funds. Greece was being threatened with expulsion from the eurozone (though there is no legal route out), whereas the UK chose to leave the EU. And yet the Grexit saga offers important lessons for the final stage of Brexit negotiations.

The prospect of Grexit – which was on and off the table after the crisis erupted in 2010 – waned after a cross-party majority in the Greek parliament backed the second bailout of Greece in 2012 and the associated debt restructuring. The threat subsided even further after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that summer that the ECB was ready to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro.

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