Finance

Beppe Grillo sets his sights on the euro

Beppe Grillo, the Italian comedian who founded the 5Star Movement, has brought back one of the founding ideas of the anti-establishment party: Holding a referendum on Italys membership of the euro.

“I have proposed a referendum for the eurozone. I want the Italians people to express themselves,” Grillo said in an interview with the French website Putsch, published Friday. “Do people agree with it? Is there a plan B? Do we need or not to leave Europe?”

The firebrand comedian-turned-politician added that “there are two economies [in Europe] …. one of the North and one of the South. And we, Italians, are in the South.”

Calling a referendum on the single currency would be forbidden by the Italian constitution, which doesnt allow votes on international treaties.

Opposition to the single currency was a key message of the 5Stars in its early days. However, in the run-up to the March 4 election, the party softened its stance and the call for a referendum was not included in the manifesto. Grillo, 69, has of late taken a step back from the party he founded, with a new, young leader, 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, taking over.

The 5Stars became the biggest party in the election, but didnt win enough seats to form a government. Di Maio demanded that he be appointed prime minister but in the two months since he has not found a coalition partner. Some political commentators believe Di Maio has been weakened by his failure to form a government and could face pressure from other senior party figures, including Grillo.

On Monday, President Sergio Mattarella will meet with party leaders to try and find a solution to the impasse, his office said in a statement. The most likely scenario is more failed talks after which Mattarella will seek to appoint a short term government before another election, probably next spring. However, a short-term administration would still need the support of the 5Stars or the far-right League, and both have so far been hostile to the idea.

If that opposition remains, the new election would likely be held in the fall, but its very unlikely that there will be a new team in place in time to approve the budget in October. Not having a new government by then would mean scheduled VAT hikes would come into force (as only a new government could postpone or scrap them) — and analysts believe that would make the markets nervous as Italy has the worlds third largest public debt.

Original Article

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