Britain Europe Politics

EU Pushes Italy to the Brink

Its been a while since I had a look at how Brexit is going.  It seems as though all the forces of the Establishment are being gathered to try and prevent any meaningful Brexit – which would be a shame – not least because it would be a negation of UK democracy and would bind the UK to  failing institution.

This week I was speaking to a Sydney banker who volunteered the information that he and his colleagues in the financial industry thought that Brexit would offer the UK great opportunities in his field.  He regarded the EU as too controlling and bureaucratic and that the UK finance industry being freed of the shackles would thrive.  London would remain the finance capital of the world – without being shackled by the EU.  Thats not a line we often hear from our politicians!

Meanwhile another reason for getting out of the EU was reinforced by this weeks EU interference in Italy.   In summary this is what has happened.  The Italian voters had elected the political parties Five Star and The League (both euro-sceptic parties) as the

Cottarelli and Mattarella

largest parties. AS they sought to form a government they wanted to appoint the Euro-sceptic Paolo Savona as finance minister.  President Sergio Mattarella, under pressure from the EU and the finance markets, refused to let them form a government and instead appointed Carlo Cottarelli as an interim Prime Minister.   Mr Cottarelli is a technocrat – a former IMF economist.

The situation was made worse when the German Finance Minister, Oettinger, said in public what the EU was arguing in private.

“My concern and expectation is that the coming weeks will show that the development of the markets, government bonds and the economy of Italy will be so far-reaching that this will be a possible signal to voters not to vote for populists on the right or left,”

“Already the developments of the government bonds, the market value of banks, the general course of the Italian economy is clearly overcast, is negative. This has to do with the possible government formation.”

Press conference about future of EU finance after Brexit

This was widely taken as an instruction to the Italian electorate to make sure they voted in a Euro-friendly government.   The EU furiously backtracked and said all the right words about ‘respecting the electorate’ (to be taken as seriously as those UK politicians who talk about ‘respecting’ the electorates decision in the referendum, whilst doing what they can to undermine it).


Meanwhile Guy Verhofstadt made the situation worse by tweeting: “Italy is not struggling because of euro, but because of lack of structural reforms.  Italy should do what France has started to do.  Reforms, reforms, reforms and Italy will be saved.”.  Which simply means that Italy should reform its structures so that the EU and the markets can govern according to their principles.

This again shows the major faultline in the EU.  It is not democratic.  It is an organisation of the civic elites, run by the civic elites, for the civic elites.  Whilst the Scottish Government keep citing the Irish government as an example of how a small nation can be an equal partner, that is a fantasy.  You are welcomed as a partner as long as you do what you are told.  If a large nation like Italy cannot even choose its own government without EU interference, what chance do small nations like Scotland and Ireland have?

The EU doesn’t even stick with its own rules.  And it does not allow the results of referendums it doesn’t like to be implemented.  As with the UK they either ignore them or just insist they keep voting until they get the ‘right’ result.  Here is a list of referendums that have just been ignored by the EU.

🇩🇰: Maastricht Treaty | 51.7% No vote

🇮🇪: Nice Treaty | 53.9% No vote

🇫🇷: EU Constitution | 54.9% No vote

🇳🇱: EU Constitution | 61.5% No vote

🇮🇪: Lisbon Treaty | 53.2% No vote

🇬🇷: Euro bailout | 61.3% No vote

Meanwhile this is a very dangerous time for the EU – as this Telegraph article pointed out.   It’s little wonder that populism thrives (either of the Left or Right variety) when the EU is so cavalier about democracy!

We live in interesting times.  The sooner the UK gets out of the EU, the better it will be for all of us.  Although as I have pointed out before – I have severe doubts as to whether this will happen at all – Will Brexit Happen? The Truth about the EU…



  1. Dave, many thanks for your work on this blog, which I greatly value. If you would permit, as someone who has worked in the European Parliament for 20 years, can I just put a slightly different slant on your summary of the Italian situation, which the UK press wilfully ignores as it doesn’t fit the narrative.

    1) 5 Star were the largest part at the March elections with just over 32%. They explicitly ruled out entering into a coalition, although in fairness, this was most often posed as a question in regards to the outgoing PD;

    2) Liga (formerly Liga Nord) were part of a four-party coalition, most commonly regarded as being the junior partner to Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s party) . Liga has traditionally favoured an independent Padania, in effect telling the south of Italy to go hang, so dropping the Nord from the name, together with expelling the worst racist elements, were part of an effort to broaden their appeal). Therefore, people who voted for Liga would have done so in the expectation of them governing with pro-EU parties, like Forza and possibly PD;

    3) The marriage of convenience/opportunism that is the 5 Star/Liga coalition is the result of horse trading, not the expression of the will of the Italian people in any meaningful way, whatever the UK Brexit press would have you believe;

    4) Mattarella blocked proposed ministerial appointments under the previous PD government (eg Nicola Gratteri in 2014), so the veto of Savona is not unprecedented. The justification was that Savona’s main known policy was to get Italy to leave the euro by stealth, and this had not been part of either 5 Star or Liga’s platform, and therefore would be a denial of democracy in itself. You can accept that as valid or not, but it is within the rights granted the President by the Italian consitution (Mattarella has been a judge in the Constitutional Court);

    5) As a correction of fact, Oettinger is the European Commissioner in charge of budget and human resources. He is not part of the German government, whose finance minister in Socialist Olaf Scholz. In some ways, this only makes things worse, although the fact that a quick misquotation in a tweet by a journalist prompted Juncker to make Oettinger issue a grovelling apology within hours is indication of how sensitive the EU is to any impression of interference.

    What does this all mean? It seems that everyone in Italy is taking a deep breath, with talks now to see if a political rather than technocratic government can be formed. In Italy, as in the UK, the EU is a more than convenient scapegoat for domestic failings. If there are elections soon, 5 Star and Liga will gain enormously, but they have no more a common, shared platform than UKIP and the SNP do.

    I don’t think you should worry that the UK won’t leave the EU. It will. It will leave at the end of March next year, and we will see that the EU was not the source of all the ills our sick press has claimed for years. In some ways, Brexit has already happened. Here in the European Parliament, Conservative MEPs have become ever more peripheral, as people make the distinction between the British people and the UK government, which has yet to decide a coherent position.

  2. Working in an institution can provide insights which may not so clearly available to people who are outside that institution. So Adam Isaacs’ work in the European Parliament could be helpful in analysing the work of the EU. On the other hand, working for an institution can colour a person’s perception of that institution and that could be a drawback. Which of these applies most to Adam’s analysis I leave to others to decide. However, it is not until Point 5 that Adam gets round to referring to the EU so his work in the EP may not be particularly relevant to the previous four points. Indeed, some of his comments about Italian politics suggest a particular point of view rather than a straightforward factual description. Such as:
    “The marriage of convenience/opportunism that is the 5 Star/Liga coalition is the result of horse trading, not the expression of the will of the Italian people in any meaningful way, whatever the UK Brexit press would have you believe..”
    When someone describes negotiations as ‘horse-trading’ you get a pretty good idea where they are coming from. In continental European countries the use of PR in elections normally leads to a coalition government. Nobody voters for a particular coalition so you could, following Adam, describe almost all European governments as being the result of ‘horse trading’ and not the ‘expression of the will of the people’.
    If, as Adam says, the Italian President is within his constitutional powers to block the appointment of a particular minister then, to use Mr Bumble’s expression, the Italian constitution is an ass.
    But imagine the Queen dismissing Mr Blair’s government because they introduced tuition fees despite telling the voters they had no plans to do so! Or even deciding in 2019 to dismiss Mrs May as despite her promise in 2017 to take the UK out of the EU the Queen decides that she hasn’t actually sufficiently delivered on that promise.
    Frankly, the Italian President’s behaviour is just a further example of the increasing tendency of left-liberals to decide that an electoral outcome cannot be accepted if they don’t agree with it.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I claim no higher insight, just a different one. The main difference with this proposed coalition and the ones formed in many EU countries – Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Austria etc – is that normally the parties stand acknowledging they will most likely not get a majority so indicate their possible future coalition partners. In some countries, some parties do explicit campaign to be in coalition with specified other parties, however alien that seems to our system. Also in Germany, there was an understanding that any coalition would be made up of some combination of CDU/CSU – SPD – FDP – Greens, and explicitly ruling up Die Lnkr and AFD. In Italy, 5 Star explicitly ruled out being in any coalition. Liga were in an electoral coalition with 3 other parties, so this current proposed coalition was not talked about or considered throughout the campaign. The election took place on 4 March. This coalition idea emerged more than two months later. I don’t see how this can be described as anything other than horsetrading, which does not imply it is illegitimate. What it isn’t is the evil EU flouting the clearly defined will of the people as too often portrayed in some UK commentary, certainly not comparable with the variously referendums cited in the article.

      Incidentally, I don’t think you can compare tuition fees with leaving the euro, which would be a major breach of treaty obligations. A better comparison would be Labour winning the 2022 election and then applying to join the EU without mentioning it in their manifesto. It is a completely different order of magnitude

  3. Thank you Adam for your very informative comments. I hope you will publish (or have published) your thoughts on the subject somewhere that attracts more readers than this blog! As you say, the UK will leave (or rather, find itself out of) the EU next year. It looks unlikely that the government will have any coherent strategy even then and I fear that every set back will be used as an excuse for ever more severe demonisation of the “remainer establishment” (demonisation to which this blog gleefully contributes).

    1. I am very happy to challenge the EU Establishment – as I am to challenge any establishment. I don’t think they need to be demonised – the EU manage to do that enough for themselves – how anyone who looks at their undemocratic workings can still support them is beyond me!

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