EU IN CHAOS AS ITALY VOTES NO; /PM Swept from Power by Anti-Brussels Revolt; Financial Markets Are Braced for Days of Turmoil

Daily Mail (London), December 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

EU IN CHAOS AS ITALY VOTES NO; /PM Swept from Power by Anti-Brussels Revolt; Financial Markets Are Braced for Days of Turmoil


Byline: From Robert Hardman in Rome

EUROPE was rocked again last night after the latest populist surge against Brussels.

The Italian prime minister was swept from power after calling a referendum on constitutional reforms, which became a vote on confidence in his government.

Matteo Renzi resigned shortly after exit polls indicated a clear defeat, saying: 'I accept all responsibility for this loss. I'll say it out loud.' The result is a further landmark victory for populist movements, following Britain's vote for Brexit and Donald Trump's election win in the US.

Mr Renzi's opponent Beppe Grillo had urged voters to 'go with your gut not your brain' and had called for Italy to ditch the euro.

The prospects of an Italian vote on leaving the single currency - and by extension the EU itself - now draw closer.

Markets were braced for a turbulent day today, with the country already facing a major banking crisis.

What should have been a referendum on changes to the upper house of the Italian Parliament had escalated into a vote on Mr Renzi's handling of the crises confronting Italy - economic meltdown and record numbers of migrants.

Having already pledged to step down in the event of a No vote, Mr Renzi's departure will create fresh political instability at home and give fresh momentum to anti-establishment movements across the West.

It could also hasten a general election at a Turn to Page 2 Continued from Page One time when anti-EU parties - including the Five Star Movement of comedian Mr Grillo and the hard-Right Northern League - are in the ascendant and promising a Brexit-style vote for Italy.

The Italian president Sergio Mattarella, will be forced to find yet another stand-in PM as quickly as possible in order to calm the markets.

A Yes vote would have reinforced Mr Renzi's position and offered extra evidence of a pro-EU revival, following on from the earlier defeat of the far-Right Eurosceptic, Norbert Hofer, in yesterday's Austrian presidential election.

But Mr Renzi's defeat quickly soured any jubilation emanating from Vienna. The loss of a pro-European prime minister in Italy - a founder member of the EU and G7 nation - is a much bigger deal than the defeat of an extremist candidate for a ceremonial post in Austria.

Italy already stands on the brink of a financial crisis which could have serious implications for the euro if eight crippled Italian banks fail to secure emergency support in the coming weeks.

Confirmation of last night's No vote will certainly make it less likely that foreign investors would commit funds to any sort of rescue package.

Almost 60 years to the month when the Treaty of Rome gave birth to the European Economic Community - from which the EU has evolved - the city finds itself at the heart of the European story again.

Mr Renzi appeared upbeat as he went to vote in his home town of Florence, despite turning up without proof of identity - a prerequisite at Italian polling stations.

In the capital, where the political horsetrading will resume this morning, many Romans preferred to focus on the local derby between the city's two football clubs, Roma and Lazio.

The whole campaign was conducted in a fog of uncertainty thanks to rules which forbid opinion polls in the run-up to elections. Since the last surveys two weeks ago - showing a modest lead for No - Mr Renzi threw himself into an energetic campaign criss-crossing the country. …

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