UK prime minister David Cameron said that his country is prepared to override Britain’s legal obligations under EU treaties and impose stringent border controls that would block Greek citizens from entering the United Kingdom, if Greece is forced out of the eurozone, according to a story in the July 3, 2012 edition of The Guardian.
Hundreds of thousands of Greek citizens are currently living and working in the United Kingdom and numerous Greek businesses have set up shops in London and other cities. Furthermore, thousands of Greek students currently study at UK universities. The prime minister made no mention of those already inside the UK.
The prime minister told members of parliament in a speech that ministers have examined legal powers that would allow Britain to deprive Greek citizens of their right to free movement across the EU, if the eurozone crisis leads to “stresses and strains”.
In an appearance before parliamentarians in a committee meeting, Cameron confirmed that ministers have drawn up contingency plans for “all sorts of different eventualities”.
The worst-case scenario is understood to cover a Greek exit from the euro, which could trigger a near-collapse of the Greek economy and the flight of hundreds of thousands of its citizens who are currently entitled to settle in any EU country.
“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. At the end of the day, as prime minister, that is your first and foremost duty.”
Asked by MP Keith Vaz, the Labour party chairman of the House of Commons home affairs select committee, whether he would restrict the rights of Greek citizens to travel to the UK, the prime minister suggested he would.
“I hope it wouldn’t come to that,” he said. “But, as I understand it, the legal powers are available if there are particular 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.”