Italy’s Eurosceptic surge has gone rather under the radar. But with a General Election due to be held there by May 2018, there could well be another disaster for EU nationalists on the horizon.
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An election on Sunday in Sicily saw a coalition of Silvio Berlusconi, the anti-mass migration Northern League and the even more Eurosceptic Brothers of Italy win. Who came second? Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Taken together these Eurosceptic forces banked 75% of the vote.
To give you a flavour of where these parties stand, a resurgent Berlusconi has floated the idea of a ‘double currency’ which would effectively mean using the Italian lira internally again.
The Northern League’s Leader Matteo Salvini has been bullish about ditching the Euro completely, insisting last year that: “Everyone who votes for us will know that a Northern League government would get rid of the Euro and move back to a national currency.”
The third coalition partner the Brothers of Italy are also known to for their anti-Euro stance.
Though there have been murmurs that the likes of the Northern League may tone down their outright opposition to the Euro, that remains to be seen. And that winning coalition taken as a whole makes pretty grim reading for those who want Italy to go along with deeper Eurozone centralisation.
But it isn’t just that winning Berlusconi coalition that has doubts on Italian membership of the Euro. The Five Star Movement, who came second in Sicily, aren’t exactly a fan either.
They are still planning for a referendum on Italy leaving the Euro as a “plan B”. Their candidate for Prime Minister in 2018, Luigi Di Maio, wants changes made to the Euro and if not, still speaks of a “consultative referendum”.
This all adds up to a huge potential lightning rod for European politics. 34% of Italians support leaving the European Union entirely without any major party or political figure even championing this cause. Whilst Eurosceptic gains have been made everywhere from Germany to the Czech Republic, it could well be in Italy where the Eurozone project really begins to unravel.