The Italian Job

An element of normality returned to European politics last year, with Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders both losing out to centrist opponents. There were things that were fairly predictable about the recent Italian elections: firstly, that they were going to happen (there have been 65 Italian governments since WW2, so frequency of choice is expected), secondly, that the process was likely to end in a coalition government (however, we await the permutation) and thirdly that immigration would take top billing (Italy receives over 85% of the EU’s illegal migrants). The rest wasn’t in the script, as the Italians (and particularly the young Italians) firmly rejected established parties in favour of the populist 5-Star Movement, and the regional right-wing Lega Nord. What does this mean for Brexit? With no leader yet in post it’s difficult to say, but both 5-Star and Lega are committed Eurosceptics; ‘The EU cancels and destroys’ said Lega Nord chief Salvini, whereas 5-Star have said that they want Italy to leave the Euro, (EU exit odds also now 2/1). At the least, this might deflect the EU’s gaze at a point where the Brexit negotiations need focus.