Friday 18 January 2019

Party drops plan to ditch euro ahead of Italy election

Silvio Berlusconi is at odds with the Northern League. Photo: Reuters
Silvio Berlusconi is at odds with the Northern League. Photo: Reuters

Nick Squires

Italy's most popular party has dropped a long-held threat to ditch the euro, as the country heads to a general election in March.

The Five Star Movement's change of heart means the election will have a less Eurosceptic flavour than previously expected.

"I believe it is no longer the right moment for Italy to leave the euro," Luigi Di Maio, Five Star's leader, told Italian television.

For years, the party had promised to hold a referendum on the euro if it was elected.

But given its lacklustre performance in the governance of Rome, under the mayoralty of Five Star leading light Virginia Raggi, Italians may have wondered whether the party would be capable of something as complicated as extricating Italy from the single currency and returning to the lira.

On the right of the political spectrum, Silvio Berlusconi announced that one of the parties he has allied himself with, the Northern League, had also dropped its pledge to abandon the euro.

Mr Berlusconi was speaking on behalf of Matteo Salvini, who heads the Northern League.

"Salvini is no longer of the idea that we should leave the euro," Mr Berlusconi said. "He has understood that it would be technically impossible and unsustainable for our economy."

But those assurances were immediately shot down by the League itself. Claudio Borghi, the party's economics spokesman, said that if the centre-right won the March 4 election, then work should begin on leaving the euro.

"One second after the League is in government it will begin all possible preparations to arrive at our monetary sovereignty," he said.

The contradiction exposed a deep fissure between Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the Northern League, which together with a smaller right-wing party are expected to win the lion's share of votes and be tasked with forming a government.

Both men are vying to be leader of the centre-right bloc, ensuring further tensions should they try to form a government.

The centre-right will fall short of an absolute majority so they are also likely to have to rely on the support of a party outside the bloc, heralding yet more instability for the eurozone's third largest economy.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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