World Economy

Italy MP Says Euro Referendum Is Last Resort

Italy MP Says Euro Referendum Is Last ResortItaly MP Says Euro Referendum Is Last Resort

A referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro currency would be held only as a “last resort” if Rome does not win any fiscal concessions from the European Union, a senior lawmaker from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement said on Sunday.

Luigi Di Maio’s comments reflect a striking change of tone by some senior officials in the party in recent months as they have retreated from 5-Star’s original pledge, Reuters reported.

Seeking to reassure an audience of bankers and business leaders, Di Maio—widely tipped to be 5-Star’s candidate for prime minister at a general election due by next year—played down the referendum proposal, calling it a negotiating tool with the EU.

“Austerity policies have not worked, on monetary policy we deserve the credit for triggering a debate... this is why we raised the issue of a referendum on the euro, as a bargaining tool, as a last resort and a way out in case Mediterranean countries are not listened to,” he said.

Two years ago the party gathered the signatures from the public needed to pave the way for a referendum that it said was vital to restore Italy’s fiscal and monetary sovereignty. But now, running neck-and-neck with the ruling Democratic Party in opinion polls and with the election in sight—scheduled to be held by May 2018—it is hitting the brakes on the idea.

The party wants several changes to the eurozone’s economic rules to help its more sluggish economies, like Italy. These include stripping public investment from budget deficits under the EU’s Stability Pact and creating a European “bad bank” to deal with eurozone lenders’ bad loans.

“We are not against the European Union, we want to remain in the EU and discuss some of the rules that are suffocating and damaging our economy,” said Di Maio, who serves as deputy speaker of the chamber of deputies.

An opinion poll in La Stampa daily on Sunday had 24% of respondents saying Di Maio most deserved to run the country in the next five years, against 17% for former PD prime minister Matteo Renzi and 12% for center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.

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