Channel 4 TV was not reckless when setting out a ‘what if’ scenario should the collapse of the euro in any EU member state trigger a chain reaction leading to the currency’s disintegration.
Certainly it is exploratory but that is healthy; speculation always precedes wars and economic collapse. We should not be taken unawares, especially those living in Spain.
If cast adrift from a national support system the consequences don’t bear thinking about. The programme set out the position in the event of a downgrading of Belgium’s credit rating. It discloses that the UK Foreign Office has prepared emergency plans to manage events should the euro collapse.
When a currency collapses life as we know it ceases within hours. You quickly learn how to survive without money; you don’t have a choice. Banks and cash points are sealed; if they operate at all only limited amounts are available.
Money loses its value; you need €500 to purchase what used to cost €100. There is a change in the public psychosis; many panic. Almost all government and city departments cease to function; rubbish piles high in unlit streets, medical centres no longer prescribe drugs.
Crime goes through the roof and the authorities are ineffectual in dealing with growing scales of crime. Vigilantes are formed, householders must self-protect; martial law may be imposed and travel restricted.
Unemployment is endemic. In a desperate attempt to pay their bills the government sells public services to international speculators at bargain basement rates; sackings follow.
The middle classes, who have never known want, are reduced to begging or carrying out the most menial tasks to eke out a living. Life revolves around barter.
Exchange Markets spring up where you set out your stall for what you can offer in return for your own needs. Cash does not change hands. Such a situation is not at all fanciful; it is a snapshot of what happened in Argentina in the late 90s; it has happened elsewhere; it is unravelling in Greece.
Spanish nationals will not take kindly to sharing crumbs with outsiders. The situation is summed up by Dr Andrew Lillico of Europe Economics: ‘We have never had events of the sort we have now.’ Embassies are warned that they could be overwhelmed by nationals denied access to their bank accounts or at risk of being caught up in civil unrest.
Estimates of how many Britons live on the Costas and the Algarve is as high as 1.5 million. There is no question as to which government is responsible for their wellbeing; here it cannot be the Spanish government though they may be inclined to assist evacuation.
The programme setting out UK government response reveal contingency planning to assist expatriates is in place. When questioned by the programme makers as to what incident plans were in place at UK embassies abroad the Foreign Office referred inquiries to the Treasury.
A spokesman there said: ‘You would expect every good government to have contingency plans in place to cover a range of eventualities and risks, and this government is well prepared.’ I pray that they are.