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Even Italy's eurosceptics have given up on leaving the euro

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Even Italy's eurosceptics have given up on leaving the euro
Street performers in Rome with an early euro note. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
12:19 CET+01:00
With Italy's general election approaching, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which once promised Italian voters a referendum on the euro, says it is no longer seeking to take Italy out of the single currency.

Nor will a conservative coalition pursue the policy, according to its de facto director, Silvio Berlusconi – though his far-right allies, the Northern League, disagreed.

That leaves the League – until recently a fringe regional party – as the largest political force still opposing Italy's membership of the euro. In any case it would likely be overruled by its senior partner in the alliance, Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy) party.

Matteo Salvini, the Northern League leader attempting to make the party a national force, “has changed his position on the euro”, Berlusconi said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

“He has understood that leaving is impossible and untenable for our economy. The currency started badly, but that said today we can no longer do without the euro.”

The League's economics spokesman, Claudio Borghi, promptly disagreed, telling Italian television that “one second after the League is in government it will begin all possible preparations to arrive at our monetary sovereignty. It's a question of national security.”

He might find backing from the third member of the rightwing alliance, the Brothers of Italy party, which has opposed the single currency in the past. It has been less vocal on the issue recently, however, focusing its criticism instead on the European Union's broader economic policies and its approach to migration.

This last issue in particular promises to weigh far more heavily in the election campaign than the euro – especially now that the Five Star Movement (M5S) has dropped its opposition.

“It's time to change the rules on the euro, not leave the euro,” the M5S leader, Luigi Di Maio, told TGCOM24 television on Wednesday, calling a referendum on the single currency a last resort. With the EU more fractured than ever, he said, Italy was in a better position to negotiate than when the M5S first proposed quitting the euro zone.

While polls indicate that Italy is one of the most eurosceptic members of the EU, most moderate voters balk at leaving the euro. They are more likely to consider voting for populist parties like the M5S or Northern League because of concerns over immigration, one recent survey suggested.

The centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which has led Italy's coalition government throughout the ongoing migration crisis, is currently polling behind the M5S but ahead of Forza Italia. Together Forza Italia and its allies are in front of both the centre-left coalition and the M5S, which is not part of any alliance. 

The vote is expected to take place on March 4th. 

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