Revenge of the Sovereign Nation
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
November 1st, 2011
Greece’s astonishing decision to call a referendum – “a supreme act of democracy and of patriotism”, in the words of premier George Papandreou – has more or less killed last week’s EU summit deal.
The markets cannot wait three months to find out the result, and nor is China going to lend much money to the EFSF bail-out fund until this is cleared up. The whole edifice is already at risk of crumbling. Société Générale is down 15pc this morning. The FTSE MIB index in Milan has crashed 7pc. Italian bond spreads have jumped to 450 basis points.
Unless the European Central Bank step in very soon and on a massive scale to shore up Italy, the game is up. We will have a spectacular smash-up.
If handled badly, the disorderly insolvency of the world’s third largest debtor with €1.9 trillion in public debt and nearer €3.5 trillion in total debt would be a much greater event than the fall of Credit Anstalt in 1931. (Let me add that Italy is not fundamentally insolvent. It is only in these straits because it does not have a lender of last resort, a sovereign central bank, or a sovereign currency. The euro structure itself has turned a solvent state into an insolvent state. It is reverse alchemy.)
The Anstalt debacle triggered the European banking collapse, set off tremors in London and New York, and turned recession into depression. Within four months the global financial order had essentially disintegrated.