Slow Brexit talks prompt anti-EU Italians to scrap plans for ditching euro

Di Maio e Salvini hanno cercato voti attaccando l'UE, ma ora stanno abbassando i toni per apparire leader credibili

5 Settembre 2017

The Times

Argomenti / Teoria e scienze sociali

The tortuous progress being made between the UK and Brussels on achieving a Brexit settlement has persuaded Italy’s populist parties to soften their anti-EU rhetoric and end their threat to withdraw from the euro.

Luigi Di Maio, a senior MP with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-migrant Northern League, outlined their new approaches to the EU in policy speeches to business leaders. “We don’t want a populist, extremist or anti-European Italy,” Mr Di Maio told the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, near Lake Como.

He added that his party’s long-held ambition to hold a referendum on Italy’s euro membership was now merely a “last resort” if Brussels refused to relax strict budget rules.

Mr Salvini kept up his criticism of EU austerity, but insisted that a euro referendum would be unconstitutional.

Mr Di Maio is likely to be Five Star’s candidate for prime minister in elections to be held by May next year. The party is neck and neck in polls with the ruling Democratic Party on about 28 per cent.

Mr Salvini’s Northern League is polling at about 15 per cent, but is considering an alliance at the next election with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and a third right-wing party, which together poll more than 30 per cent.

Mr Di Maio’s speech marked a new direction after his vow in January to vote to leave the euro if a referendum was held, and his promotion of a second eurozone for southern Europe to allow Italy to revive its sluggish economy.

His latest speech comes after the electoral defeat of eurosceptics in France and The Netherlands this year and the gruelling Brexit talks.

“Italians talked about leaving the euro currency, but then Brexit put the brakes on since it scared people,” said Lorenzo De Sio, a professor of political science at LUISS university in Rome.

“Di Maio and Salvini are ambitious men who sought votes by attacking the EU, but are toning it down now they want to become credible leaders,” said Alberto Mingardi, head of the Bruno Leoni think tank.

“Italy is a nation of savers and property owners who know, at the end of the day, that they would be hit by leaving the euro.”

Da The Times, 5 settembre 2017

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