Sunday 24 June 2018

Brexit ‘can bring Italy and UK closer together’

An Italian senator says Brexit opens a window of opportunity for stronger ties with Britain.

(Stefan Rousseau/PA)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

A senator for Italy’s Eurosceptic League party has said Brexit offers an opportunity to forge closer ties with the UK as his own country seeks a “new international role” under a new populist coalition government.

Armando Siri said there were shared values between the two countries, as Britain negotiates its post-Brexit future and Italy prepares for a new government run by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League.

“Brexit has been a sovereign decision by the British people, which we respect, and we believe that this is a new paradigm for the United Kingdom.

“So this is an opportunity to further foster bilateral relations which are historical between Italy and the United Kingdom … we share values,” Mr Siri told the Press Association.

In the United Kingdom, there’s interest for the new course in Italian politics and unconditional support for tax cuts and growth policies Armando Siri

The senior League politician, who is tipped as a candidate for economic development minister, seemed encouraged by the reception that Italy’s economic and business agenda has received in London.

“In the United Kingdom there’s interest for the new course in Italian politics and unconditional support for tax cuts and growth policies,” he said.

Mr Siri is currently pushing for massive tax cuts that would mean introducing a flat rate of 15% for businesses, and 15% for families earning up to 80,000 euros (£70,000) per year.

It follows a raft of recent reforms which include a flat tax for ultra high net worth individuals and income tax breaks of up to 50% for executives and professionals relocating into Italy, which has been seen as a draw for some bankers that are being moved out of London as a result of Brexit.

Mr Siri said there are also plans for “bureaucracy cuts”, justice system reforms and infrastructure upgrades that will also make Italy an attractive post-Brexit alternative for financial services.

He also sees Italy as the “gateway for investment flows” from east Asia, the Middle East and and northern Africa into northern Europe, which would also be a draw for business.

However, the senator insisted that Italy was not “predatory” or looking to strip London of its reputation as Europe’s financial services centre.

“We’re not here to steal business”, he said.

While the League party is known for its anti-immigrant leanings, Mr Siri said this did not apply to Brexit-affected bankers.

“There’s really no reason to be against professional immigration … We have got no issues with those who obey the law,” he said, adding that the League’s issue was with “massive uncontrolled immigration flows” which he claims is fuelling “illegal business”.

When asked about market reaction to the populist government, which has spurred a renewed sell-off in Italian sovereign bonds, Mr Siri chalked it up to “noise”.

“I represent a party that has governed in Italy for 20 years. The regional government of Lombardi is under the League leadership and it’s the most important economic region in Italy.

“Clearly our government is a government of competency – we’re experienced and we’re for international co-operation,” he added.

Mr Siri was in London for a private meeting at the Guildhall this week, which has since come under fire by City of London Labour councillor Richard Crossan.

The Guardian reported Mr Crossan as saying it was “disgraceful that Guildhall’s red carpet is being rolled out for the far right”, though the City of London said the event was a private lunch hosted by an external organisation.

Press Association

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