Italexit: Salvini must pull Italy from EU if he wants to be PM, says French politician

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    The Italian populist behind the country’s latest political crisis has repeatedly clashed with Brussels over key issues, including Rome’s massive debt and controversial migrant policy. “Salvini will only succeed [in becoming the new PM] if he takes Italy out of the EU. Because if he doesn’t, he will be betraying his promises,” Mr Philippot, leader of the nationalist The Patriots movement, said in a Twitter post. Mr Philippot, a former member of France’s far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party, has repeatedly called for France to hold its own referendum on EU membership.

    Italy was tipped into chaos last week after Mr Salvini, leader of the ruling far-right League party, pulled the plug on the uneasy coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), seeking to capitalise on his soaring popularity by calling for a snap election that could see him crowned as PM.

    Mr Salvini, currently the country’s interior minister and deputy premier, has frequently disagreed with his fellow deputy PM, Luigi di Maio of M5S, over a range of policies.

    Festering tensions between the two populists peaked in recent weeks, with an explosive row centred on the financing of a multi-billion-euro high-speed train line between the Italian city of Turin and Lyon in neighbouring France. 

    “The League and M5S have been diverging in their vision for too long on matters that are fundamental for the country,” the League said in a statement last week.

    “This government’s only option is to let Italians have their say” by calling early elections, it added. 

    But Mr Salvini’s election plans are not going smoothly, with M5S and centre-left parties in parliament scrambling to find ways to avoid an election some four years ahead of schedule. 

    His election push was further frustrated by the Italian Senate, which has postponed until next week further debate on the government crisis. 

    The League has presented a no-confidence motion in the government, but the Senate on Tuesday rejected its request for it to be debated this week, saying that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte should first address the upper house over the crisis on August 20.  

    Another thorn in Mr Salvini’s side is President Sergio Mattarella, who has the sole power to dissolve parliament and has insisted there must be a government in place to finalise the budget, a first draft of which has to be submitted to Brussels by the end of September.

    However, the chances of an ‘Italexit’ if Mr Salvini’s bid for power is successful remain high, a former prime minister saying on Sunday. 

    “One day, he can say he wants Europe, the next that he wants to leave. With Salvini, an Italian ‘Brexit’ is not impossible,” Enrico Letta told AFP. 

    Mr Letta also branded Mr Salvini a “big opportunist” whose path is “sovereignist and racist,” and whose “anti-migrant, anti-integration” ideas are becoming more widely accepted. 

    Mr Salvini, for his part, said last week that pulling Italy out of either the euro zone or the EU “has never been in the works”.

    The populist coalition has repeatedly locked horns with Brussels this past year, namely on Italy’s controversial fiscal and immigration policies. 

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