George Osborne has appealed to Greece’s new anti-austerity finance minister to act “responsibly” and not to trigger a new financial crisis in Europe.
At talks in Downing Street, the Chancellor warned Yanis Varoufakis that his stand-off with his country’s eurozone creditors risked destabilising the entire global economy.
Mr Varoufakis is engaged on a whistle stop tour of European capitals in a bid to win support for the new Syriza government’s attempt to re-negotiate the terms of the country’s 240 billion euro (£179bn) international bailout.
While he was urged by Mr Osborne to choose “competence over chaos”, the Chancellor also made clear that the eurozone countries needed to do more to encourage growth.
In a statement following their meeting, Mr Osborne warned that a renewed crisis in the eurozone would hit Britain’s economic recovery.
“It’s clear that the stand-off between Greece and the eurozone is fast becoming the biggest risk to the global economy, and it’s a rising threat to our economy at home.
“In Europe as in Britain now is the time to choose competence over chaos,” he said. “I urged the Greek finance minister to act responsibly, but it’s also important that the eurozone has a better plan for jobs and growth. We have that plan in Britain and in these uncertain times, now is not the time to abandon that plan.”
Mr Varoufakis, an economics professor who studied at Essex University, arrived for the meeting sporting a blue, open-necked shirt, in contrast to Mr Osborne’s traditional suit, collar and tie.
While the French have supported his call for a renegotiation, he has yet to convince Greece’s biggest creditor – Germany.