February 29, 2016 / 8:03 AM / a year ago

Greece's 'erratic Marxist' Varoufakis advises Britain's Labour Party, Corbyn says

Greece's former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis addresses a news conference to introduce the so-called DiEM 25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025) at the Volksbuehne theatre in Berlin, Germany, February 9, 2016. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is said to launch a new pan-European movement during a presentation where he presents his ideas on how to democratise Europe.Fabrizio Bensch - RTX264MQ

LONDON (Reuters) - Yanis Varoufakis, the self-described "erratic Marxist" who took Greece to the brink of a euro zone exit by battling creditors over the conditions for a bailout, has got a new role: advising Britain's opposition Labour Party.

The former Greek finance minister who shuns neckties and says the European Union is falling apart will advise Labour due to his negotiating experience during the euro zone debt crisis, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"I think the way Greece has been treated is terrible and we should reach out to them," Corbyn, who has taken the party of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown further to the left since he became leader in 2015, told the Islington Tribune.

"Varoufakis is interesting, because he has obviously been through all the negotiations [with the ECB, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund]," Corbyn was quoted as telling his local London newspaper.

Varoufakis, 54, did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment about the new role.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said Varoufakis would take part in a lecture series to discuss his experiences and offer advice on Labour Party policy "in an attempt to raise the level of public debate on economics and policy making."

In six months as Greece's finance minister, the British-educated economist infuriated euro zone colleagues by opposing the terms for a Greek bailout.

As Greece tumbled towards what some investors feared would be a disorderly exit from the euro, Varoufakis engaged some colleagues in political discussion on the economic theory behind the bailout terms while publicly criticising the euro zone.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of opposition Labour Party, addresses a protest against the Trident nuclear missile system in London, February 27, 2016.Paul Hackett

He resigned in July 2015 shortly before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras eventually finally agreed terms to avoid being bounced out of the common currency.

"We both want to see an economic strategy around anti-austerity, and we’re both very concerned about the activities and power of the European Central Bank," Corbyn, 66, said when asked about his ties to Tsipras.

"EU FALLING APART"

Greece's debt crisis and eventual bailout were cast by some eurosceptics in the British Labour movement as evidence that Germany was imposing spending cuts on citizens in euro zone countries to serve corporate interests.

Though it was not immediately clear what Varoufakis would advise Labour on, the former finance minister has said he opposes a British exit from the EU.

Corbyn, who voted against membership in 1975, has said he will campaign to keep Britain in the EU in a June 23 referendum, arguing that membership is the best way to improve social and employment laws.

"Under the weight of its own hubris, the EU is falling apart," Varoufakis said in an article on his web site. "Brexit will make the EU’s fragmentation faster and surer, begetting a post-modern 1930s from which the UK will not escape even if out of the EU."

Corbyn's opponents in Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party said Labour's move to seek advice from Varoufakis was indicated a flawed economic policy.

editing by Ralph Boulton

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