ATHENS (Reuters) – Worn down by years of EU-mandated austerity, many Greeks on Friday welcomed Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as an overdue slap in the face for a Brussels bureaucracy they say is out of touch with ordinary people.
“This is a good thing, it will smash Germany’s economic strength and other countries will follow (Britain),” said Christos Peppas, 48, who works at the Bank of Greece, the central bank.
Sipping a coffee at an outdoor Athens cafe on Friday morning, Peppas said: “Britain will be fine. It will decide its own fate and its economic policy.”
Before the British, Greeks held their own referendum to send a message to Brussels, but without the same result.
One year ago, Greeks overwhelmingly voted against the terms of a financial bailout, delivering what was then one of the biggest blows to European integration.
But faced with the potentially devastating fallout of quitting the euro zone, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras caved in, negotiating a third bailout with lenders worth up to 86 billion euros, and accepting the conditions attached.
Britain never adopted the euro, but Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party, said at the time that the Greek vote was the beginning of the end of the whole EU project.
“Europe doesn’t have a future,” said George Fountas, 36, a driver. “At some point we should do the same. Of course Britain doesn’t have the crisis we have, things are different.”
Some Greeks said they wished Greece had stood its ground.
“I wish we had the nerve of the English,” said jeweller Stavros Karidis, 53. “These people will stick to the verdict of the referendum.”
Referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to resign, he added: “He (Cameron) is not called Alexis.”
(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)