​Greece's Varoufakis: Rather 'cut my arm off' than agree to current deal

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (Reuters / Marko Djurica)
Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has pledged to resign if Greeks voted ‘Yes’ in Sunday’s referendum on the country’s bailout. He also said he would “prefer to cut my arm off” rather than sign the current deal with Greece’s creditors.

“Everybody in the government will do what we must do in order to respect the “Yes” vote of the Greek people, but there won’t be a “Yes” vote. I am quite confident that the Greek people have had enough of extending and pretending, like the rest of the world by the way,” Varoufakis said in an interview to Bloomberg on Thursday.

People got tired of “losing their dignity by signing agreements and making pledges that simply cannot be met. Because the financing is wrong,” he said.

Varoufakis said that if the ‘Yes’ vote succeeds, come Sunday midnight he won’t be finance minister anymore. “But I would help whoever it is,” he added.

Varoufakis complained that the country’s debt was unsustainable, saying ‘I’d better cut my arm off’ than sign the deal with creditors that doesn’t include debt reorganization.

‘Desperate’ to stay in the euro

Greece “really desperately wants to stay in the euro, even if we are critical of the institutions in the framework of the euro,” Varoufakis said. “The question for the Greek people is, how do you stay in it. Do you stay by further extending and pretending? I believe not. If we sign that agreement that was offered to us by these institutions, in 6-12 months we'll be even closer to insolvency,” he said.

“I won’t sign another extension and pretend. I’m allergic to extending and pretending.”

The group of eurozone finance ministers has agreed that the debt talks will be paused until after Greece holds a referendum on whether or not Athens should agree to the international creditors’ conditions. Mr. Varoufakis said the talks would resume with European creditors even if the result on Sunday was a 'No' vote.

“What we do with this economy and whether we extend the crisis by pretending to have solved it will depend on the outcome of the referendum,” he said. In the case of a 'No' vote, the Greek government would “immediately start negotiations,” Varoufakis promised.

“Believe you me, there will be an agreement,” he said.

READ MORE: Greek PM: We aim to seal deal with creditors after referendum

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also says that a “'No' answer in the referendum would be an important step to getting a better deal – it does not mean a break-up with Europe."

"I fully understand the difficulties, and I will do everything in my power so that they are temporary. Those who say the government has a plan to exit Europe are lying," he added.

Tsipras said his government was facing the consequences of a fight for decent welfare: "The predominance of extreme views in Europe has led to the closure of Greek banks, to scare the ordinary Greek citizen. To protect the right of our pensioners for a decent pension, we have been fighting for five months, and now, we are facing retribution for it."

‘No banking crisis in Greece’

When asked whether the Greek banks would open next Tuesday as normal, Varoufakis said “absolutely.”

“It's not a banking crisis according to the ECB and SSM the banks were perfectly capitalized there was no problem with them. What is happening is there has been a political decision to shut the banks down as a way of effectively pushing us to accept a nonviable agreement at the political level. So this is a political crisis, but nothing to do with the banks. Once the political crisis is over after the Greek people deliver their verdict, the banks will open,” he said.

Meanwhile, Greeks have been queuing to withdraw money from ATMs after the government said that banks would remain closed for a week starting from Monday. Restrictions on withdrawals have been introduced following the ECB refusal to provide additional Emergency Liquidity Assistance to Greece’s banking system.