How to Leave the Euro More or Less Legally

There is much speculation, some of it silly, about how to leave the euro if you want to. Among the more barmy ideas is for the Eurogroup to follow the precedent of King Henry VIII who, if you remember, divorced the first of six wives by claiming that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been null and void in the first place. (This turned out to be quite a historic decision: relations between England and the rest of Europe have never been quite the same since.)

In similar fashion, it is argued today that as Greece was admitted originally to the eurozone under false accounting pretences, its membership of the single currency has been a living lie and therefore could be annulled.

Another line, taken by some Greek nationalists, is that Article 7 TEU should be used to relieve Greece of the euro on the grounds that the values and principles of the European Union (as laid down in Article 2 TEU), which include respect for ‘human dignity’, ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’, have been abused by the imposition of cruel debt conditions. Conversely, other commentators, some German, have wondered whether an Article 7 procedure could be triggered against Greece for a treacherous breach of its commitment to other values and principles of the European Union (also found in Article 2), notably ‘democracy’ and ‘the rule of law’.

Avoiding madness

Both such lines of enquiry, in my view, indicate madness. Yet it remains the case that it is difficult to leave the single currency, whose establishment was deemed to be irrevocable (Article 140(3) TFEU), in an orderly manner. There is no provision in the treaties to ditch the euro, although thanks to the Lisbon treaty a state can negotiate to secede from membership of the European Union as a whole (Article 50 TEU).

A decision to extricate Greece from membership of the euro while remaining a member state of the EU could possibly be engineered under Article 352 TFEU ...

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