Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned Thursday that a Greek exit from the eurozone could have drastic consequences for all of Europe, and called for a new "grand bargain" to help even the field between the monetary union's haves and have-nots.
Following talks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Clegg told reporters there should be no delusions about what it would mean, even for Britain, if Greece decided to leave the 17-nation bloc of countries using the euro.
Britain is not a part of the eurozone, but its economy depends on doing business with continental Europe.
"No one should labor under the false hope that somehow Greece leaving the eurozone would provide instant relief to the problems we face..." he said. "If any member country were to choose to leave, it would have a very unpredictable knock-on effect not only on members of the eurozone, but on the European Union as a whole, including Britain, and, indeed, on the global economy."
Clegg, who also held talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, has spoken in favor of the idea of eurobonds, in which eurozone countries link their debt together, lowering borrowing costs for more indebted countries.
French President Francois Hollande has been championing the idea but Germany firmly rejected it as a short-term fix to the debt crisis. Berlin argues eurobonds would take pressure off heavily indebted countries to fix their finances and would raise borrowing costs for responsible ones like Germany.
"We think we cannot solve a debt crisis by making it easier to take up new debts," Westerwelle said.
Clegg said something needed to be done to relieve the cash flow problems of the indebted countries, but conceded German leaders were in a tough position.
"I can easily imagine how extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, it is to say to German taxpayers: `but by the way, can we use some of your money to share the debt burden across Europe."
Clegg said Europe should not be "fixated on eurobonds" but instead look for other possible solutions that may be more palatable.
"We need to create a new future, a new vision for the eurozone where the strong countries, particularly in northern Europe, who have kept control of their public finances, who have invested for the future, who are successful exporting countries, continue to do so but in a way which is in partnership with countries who have consumed too much and racked up too much debt, particularly in southern Europe," he said.
"In other words, what we need is a new grand bargain, if you like, between north and south, between creditor and debtor countries, between exporting and consuming countries."
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