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British-Hellenic trade body discusses cost and opportunities from Brexit for Greece

The cost of Britain’s exit from the European Union for the Greek economy, the opportunities that arise, bilateral relations and relations with the European Union were discussed at a one-day conference organized by the British-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, titled: “Brexit: Opportunities and Threats for Business. 

Britain’s decision is expected to affect thousands of students, businesspeople and employees working in the United Kingdom and the EU. The cost of the inevitable transition period will depend on the talks which will be held in the next two years leading up to Britain’s exit from the Union. 
Economy Minister Dimitris Papadimitriou said that depending on the developments in the talks and the agreement that will arise between the EU and Britain for the latter to start paying gradually its obligations towards the Union (totaling 57 billion euros), it is estimated that the cost for Greece may range from 0.3 percent to 1 percent of the GDP for two years. “It is a rather mild effect, if the good scenario prevails,” he said.
Papadimitriou added that apart from the immediate cost from the decline in Greek exports of goods and services as well as British investments, there is also an indirect cost that could derive from a possible upheaval in international markets, which may increase the risk and lending rates because of price downturn of Greek government bonds. 
“In this case, the slowdown of economic development in Europe will further aggravate domestic liquidity and non-performing loans held by Greek banks,” he said. 
Another indirect cost will come from the inevitable change in the EU budget, in which Britain’s contribution stands at 16.56 billion euros, or 11.13 percent of the total budget -versus 1.86 billion euros for Greece or 1.4 percent of the total, he added. 
New Democracy Vice-President Kostis Hatzidakis said it is in everyone’s interest to ensure the close cooperation between the two sides, adding that the aim now is to achieve a deal that will ensure the best possible prospects for UK and EU citizens in this new reality. 
“I think everyone who is here today understands that the road ahead will not be easy. The two sides are called upon to find equilibrium in highly complex issues whose implications are multidimensional,” he told the attendants. 
On her side, the British Ambassador to Greece, Kate Smith, focused on the future of Greek-British relations after the Brexit.
“The United Kingdom seeks a deep and special partnership that will cover security and economic cooperation in the interests of Britain and all its European partners,” she said.
Smith told the conference Britain is the seventh largest export market for Greek products while Greek shipping is one of the major recipients of financial and other specialist services offered in London’s City. “Therefore, it makes sense for Greece and Britain to have a bold and ambitious free trade agreement,” she said. 
Addressing the anxieties Greek employees and investors in Britain, the ambassador said her country wants to have certainty concerning the status of Greeks investing in the UK and the Greeks working in Britain, so as to continue to deepen economic bonds.
Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the Greek President of the British-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, Harris Ikonomopoulos, said the issue of whether Britain’s exit from the EU will offer more opportunities or threats to all sides involved will depend on the “political maturity, historical memory and thoroughness that we will show as a government, as productive entities, as a people, as Europeans.”
“The UK is not just a member of the EU that decided to withdraw from an economic union. It is a historic guardian of European peace and security,” he added. “The negotiations on the conditions of the exit may be held by politicians and bureaucrats, however they involve millions of European citizens, students, employees and businesses. Whether opportunities will be highlighted and risks tackled must not only depend on the political maturity and the historical memory of the European Commission, the British government and the European partners. They can and must take into account the needs, daily lives, prosperity and future of all the peoples in Europe."