Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 1 November 2011

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Europe and Sir Gus O'Donnell.

Europe

Asked if the Prime Minister (PM) had spoken to any other Euro leaders that day about the Greek referendum, or if he intended to, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there hadn’t been any calls and that there weren’t any plans for calls that day.  He said that the PM had spoken to leaders about global economic issues in recent days and would be doing so again at the G20.

Asked if the PM thought that the referendum should not have been called, given that the chancellor had said it would add to instability in the euro area, the PMS said it was a matter for the Greeks to decide on the appropriate process for their country.  He added that the Chancellor was stating a fact - few people expected a referendum to be called yesterday and it therefore had an impact on uncertainty.  The Government wanted all these issues dealt with as quickly as possible to put an end to the uncertainty.

Asked if the referendum was a good or a bad thing, the PMS said that it was the nature of international agreements that national processes flowed from them - whether it was ratification of an agreement by Parliament or in this case a referendum on a particular issue. He said that this was also true of the 21st July package that was ratified by all the states of the Eurozone.

Asked if the PM was disappointed that he only found out about the referendum yesterday, the PMS said that some discussions - in particular about the write down of Greek debt and the resources for the EFSF - took place primarily among Eurozone countries.

Asked about the meeting with Sarkozy and Merkel the following day, the PMS said that it wasn’t surprising that Eurozone leaders wanted further discussion in the margins of the G20 meeting.  Last Wednesday they announced the outline of a package and they were now in the process of trying to implement that package and that would require further conversations.

Asked if the Greek referendum was discussed by the Cabinet, the PMS said there was a discussion about the European Council, the Eurozone meeting and the G20 meeting coming up, so it would have been discussed in that context.

Asked if the PM was frustrated that we were back to square one after so much time spent in summits, the PMS said that the PM was under no illusion about the difficulty of the issues they were dealing with.  The process was inevitably going to take some time - good progress had been made, but the Eurozone countries now needed to follow through and implement what was agreed.

Asked for an indication of the Government’s concern about Greece, the PMS said that the Government was concerned abut the global economic situation The UK had an open economy and traded a lot with the Eurozone and other countries around the world, and therefore what happened in those countries had a very real impact on our economy.  That was why the PM had spent a lot of time in international meetings talking to European partners.  He had been doing what he could to apply pressure on countries to get on and deal with the problems.

Sir Gus O’Donnell

Asked if the PM was reconsidering splitting up Gus O’Donnell’s job after Sir Robin Butler expressed his concerns, the PMS said the he was not going to change his plans.