Chancellor George Osborne has said that the government will protect British pensioners, businesses and holiday makers who stand to lose money in the ongoing Greek debt crisis.
In a special statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Osborne said that Britain is “prepared” in a “rapidly changing situation”.
“Britain’s attitude to the developing Greek crisis is clear,” Osborne said to fellow MPs. “We hope for the best, but we prepare for the worst.”
Earlier in the day, Osborne attended a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, Bank of England governor Mark Carney, foreign secretary Philip Hammond and business secretary Sajid Javid to review Britain’s contingency plans in the event of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.
“This Greek crisis has, in one form or another, been with us for five years,” Osborne said, calling it “one of the biggest external economic risks to the British economy”.
“I don’t think anyone should underestimate the impact that a Greek exit from the euro would have on the European economy, and the knock-on effects on us,” he added.
Osborne said that despite new capital controls in Greece, the 2,700 Britons living in the country who receive payments from the department of work and pensions and the 300 expats who get public sector pension payments would continue to receive their money. He also said that the UK government was attempting to contact pensioners with Greek bank accounts to help them switch to non-Greek accounts.
The chancellor also promised tax relief for businesses suffering cash flow problems due to owed payments from Greece, saying HMRC would extend its “Time to Pay” scheme to delay tax payments to include the firms affected.
According to the latest ONS figures, the UK exports £2.82bn of goods and services to Greece each year.
The chancellor also said that the foreign office has updated its travel advice to Greece, recommending that holiday-goers carry enough cash to cover any and all emergencies.
How to prepare for a summer trip to Greece
Take more than one means of payment. Foreign-registered cards are not subject to controls put in place, which include ATM withdrawal limits of €60 (£43) a day. So this should not affect Brits on holiday. Yet the Foreign Office suggests making sure you have “more than one means for payment” with you – including cash, a debit card and a credit card.
Be aware of strikes. They have taken place in Athens fairly regularly as negotiations have become more heated between Greece and its creditors. They can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece.
Stay clear of protests. Most have been peaceful, if a little rowdy – so as long as you keep away from them, it should not be a problem. “You should avoid all demonstrations and follow the advice given by local security authorities,” the Foreign Office says.
Be vigilant. The Foreign Office says there is a “general threat from terrorism and acts of political violence”. British nationals are not normally considered a target, but attacks could happen in places visited by foreigners. Since 2013, there have been several attacks involving explosives and automatic weapons on Greek institutions, malls, media interests and diplomatic targets.