Alex Britton: Cyprus bank job proves it's more dog eat dog than ever
THERE's nothing worse than being outside the loop, is there?
All the newspaper headlines talking about something, TV presenters sharing off the cuff jokes about the burning issue without actually talking about what it is – it's frustrating, infuriating and everything in between.
In the weekend just gone, I had a bit of a break from news. Not intentionally, it just happened that I had a few other things to do.
Anyway, I was listening to the news coming from elsewhere in Europe on Monday and everyone kept on referring to the "Cyprus Problem".
It sounded like another ITV2 fly-on-the-wall "documentary" about holiday reps in Ayia Napa, dealing with Brits abroad who had got in trouble with the law or something – the kind of programme that people tend to watch through massively judgemental eyes, feeling no sympathy for the dozy lad from Swindon (or anywhere else) who tried to knock ten bells out of a lamppost because he "didn't like the look it was giving me".
But it seems the Cyprus Problem isn't something that involves people who deserve no sympathy – it's actually quite a tragic tale about a bank robbery where those losing out aren't the bankers, but the people.
Over the weekend, as it turns out, EU negotiators said they wanted a cut of most Cypriots' savings to support a national bailout of the banks.
Now, the banks in Cyprus have been struggling for a while because of Greece and wider Eurozone problems but, somewhat unsurprisingly, trying to take anything between 6.7 and nearly 10 per cent of people's nest eggs didn't go down to well.
If it sounds like daylight robbery, that's because it's exactly that.
As many commentators have pointed out, dealing with bust countries usually involves jargon-filled speeches about cashflow and fiscal stimuli.
However the action of taking a slice of people's savings overnight is easy enough to understand, and it's fairly easy to understand that it's wrong.
Oh, and the comic lining to the massive black cloud?
The name of the central bank chief is Panicos Demetriades.
There may yet be a Plan B and the savings tax could be wiped from the agenda, but the damage and loss in confidence has been done already.
It isn't the percentages that are the problem, it's the principles.
I will happily credit the European Union when it does something laudable, but the plans were crafted in Brussels and Frankfurt and led to what can only be described as theft carried out against the wishes of the people of Cyprus.
And that can't be right.
We're a long way from something similar happening here but the idea of this as a closer relationship – which has long been the pipedream for the European Union – is demonstrably dead.
From where I'm standing, it's more dog eat dog than ever.
If the tale of Cyprus is anything to go by, people will find it increasing hard to believe Governments and banks when they say "this is for your own good" with their hands clasped firmly onto your piggy bank.
You wouldn't stand the Mafia doing it, so why would it be any different when they wear a suit and a smile and are from the State?