Collapse of Italian government

The decision of the Italian Prime Minister to resign rather than face a Confidence vote brings to an end a curious government experiment. 2 populist parties with very different programmes and outlooks tried to govern together. Both found the restrictions of the EU budget rules and Euro scheme difficult to live with. Lega were keen to cut taxes and 5 Star wanted to introduce a more generous basic income payment by the state. The PM, not elected for either governing party, sought to keep the government more in line with EU requirements and tried to keep co-operation between the two leaders of the two main parties in the coalition against a background of disagreements. Meanwhile the Italian economy stagnated, and fell into a shallow recession for the second half of last year.

There will be efforts for the pro EU New Democracy party to ally in government with 5 Star to avoid an election both of them might do badly in. They might be able to establish a temporary government. It would have to pass a budget that appears compliant with EU rules. If they do this Lega will look for any way to bring on an early election which they think would give them more seats and more clout in the Parliament.
They will be looking to the new EU Commission to see if there is any scope to relax the current tight settlements, given the wish of many in Italy to spend more and be taxed less. They will also be hoping the new President of the European Central Bank follows an even more accommodating policy, and will expect Italy to continue as the number one borrower from that Bank under the Target 2 balances arrangements.

Italy is an interesting test of whether populist parties can govern in any way in the Euro area that keeps faith with what their electors want and what they promised. The Lega/5 Star coalition compromised with the EU to avoid a worse conflict in ways which prevented the implementation of much of their respective economic and financial programmes. Mr Salvini of Lega is hoping to bring about an election which he thinks he can win, when he would doubtless be less willing to compromise. This in turn raises bigger questions of Italian electors. Would they trust a committed populist government to challenge these EU orthodoxies? How far would they let such a government take their demands? When Syriza in Greece tried it they ended up backing down. Greece is a much smaller country that does not have the same weight as Italy financially and economically, so we would be in uncharted territory. Italy owes large sums to the ECB, which is Germany’s problem as well as they have lent most of it.

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108 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    The Italian debt is indeed Germany’s. My wife is Italian and we have property there and visit relatives (near Milan) regularly. The place is really quite depressed currently and has been for a long time. Very cheap flat and houses are available even in some of the more prosperous areas in the north. The banking system under huge stesses.

    The youth (15-24) unemployment rate of Italy is 35.1% exceeded only by Spain and Greece in the EU. In Calabria it is even 55.6%. What sort of system wastes (and fails even to train so much of their youthful work force)?

    Their sensible new tax cap EURO 100K for some and sensible levels of inheritance tax are now attracting some of the weatlhy. I really do now know enought about the politics of the place as I should do but I hope they will break out of the EU and EURO straight jacket that is doing such harm especially to Spain/Greece and Italy.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Italy and the UK resemble each other in one important regard, in their private media.

      In both cases they are pretty appalling ……………… producing populist trash.

      However, Italy does not have anything like the BBC, the most heavily-resourced “news” organisation in Europe, so public consciousness as to what might be possible is quite different.

      So as we see, there are wild swings in party popularity, quite different from here in the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised even to see the commies back before long.

      • Hope
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        JR, populist parties? You mean democratically elected officials. Stop pandering to words or terms used by left wing globalists like the EU. Subtley used to smear upcoming parties challenging dishonest parties who wish to remain in office and lie to the public like the Tory party.

        Where would you like to start with the lies by your party? Economy- balanced structural deficit by 2015? Low taxation-highest in forty years? Immigration- record historic high figures and now ONS found lying to under estimate for ten years? Leaving the EU? Inheritance tax? Council tax freeze? Bonfire of quangos- this could fund better public services? Social adult care? Secure borders?

        If this is your way to cast doubt in the minds of voters for the coming election in the autumn about the Brexit party it is pretty ineffective. Suggest your energy is used to sort out your left wing party that would be better suited to being called New Labour. There is nothing conservative about your party.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I detest this namby-pamby, wet-lettuce, mucking about with our language. Let’s call things what they are.

          Take that silly PC word “populism” for instance.

          That’s just mob cretinism, if the truth be told, isn’t it?

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            Or the wishes of the majority.
            But we know how lefty remainers find that a nuisance eh Martin

      • NickC
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Martin, Most of the media in the UK such as the BBC, Grauniad, Independent, etc, produces . . . . . . unpopular trash. Yes, they want us to be governed from Brussels (remember Lisbon Declaration17?), just as you do. But they never say why. Just as you don’t.

      • libertarian
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Martin in Cardiff

        Listen lad I’ve told you before google before posting

        As always you are wrong… you really dont do facts do you

        The RAI TV channel is state owned….. just like the BBC ( RAI has the highest viewing figures of all Italian TV channels )

        Youre a parody account aren’t you Martin

    • bill brown
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic,

      Interesting perspective there might be a discussion about the EURO but there is actually a majority of the Italian population supporting EU membership

      • graham1946
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Could that be because of what Martin says, lack of proper news reporting? We leavers are always told we didn’t know what we were voting for – could that really be the truth for the Italians? They’ve been in it from the start, so no-one ever thinks to question it.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          You misunderstood me. My point is that the BBC still has a fairly strong stranglehold on UK public opinion, and suffocates the people’s imagination as to what might be possible. It does this by deafening silences on a whole range of issues, e.g. on what sort of pensions people can expect in France and in Germany and how they are funded.

          RAI is not like the BBC in that regard, and perhaps because of this Italians seem willing to experiment over a far wider political spectrum than the British.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

            MiC

            And the huge amount of benefits of leaving the EU , they never mention that on the BBC

            I’m confused though why would you want the BBC to run programmes on French and German pensions , what about how health care is funded in France and Germany ?

        • Frances Truscott
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          I had that very conversation at lunchtime. We know how much pro Eu propaganda the bbc is pumping out. It’s possible people in Europe don’t know.

    • ukretired123
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      It’s very important to hear how the Italian people themselves view their lives inside the EU confines. I got the impression on recent visits they are very proud of their successes like Engineering, Motor sports and flagship marques including Ducati and sports football winter sports etc whose TV coverage helps divert attention away from their fractured politics.
      We noted depression likewise when living in South of France and experienced life on the ground too. Price inflation over many years and poor job prospects especially for all young folks were prevalent and drove many to work and live abroad.
      When you meet young teenage Italians and ask them where they are from by contrast they smile proudly and musically declare “Italia!” as if to say where else would you want to live! When they leave school and see the reality I hope things will improve for them.
      I think they need to leave Euroland as the EU like the fabled historical ” American Dream” it is just that – just a wishful utopian dream, sadly and a nightmare for countries like Greece.

      • Frances Truscott
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Do people seriously not notice the tragic unemployment and emigration of their young people? What use a masters in engineering if one is waiting on tables in Australia?

    • Richard1
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      The tax cap is an interesting idea. We should look at that or at least in restoring the old non Dom arrangements. It will be interesting if Salvini gets to try his flat tax idea.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Farage last night on LBC had a discussion on HS2 and could not find any callers who were really in favour of it. The only people who seem to be infavour are the businesses profiting from building it’s construction.

    Self drive cars, aircraft and the ability to work on trains anyway make faster intercity trains in the fairly small UK very expensive and rather pointless. Trains are not even very energy efficient all considered door to door. Why were the politician so in favour of it. Was it “consultancy” fees? So many far better ways to spend the £100 billion + it will end up costing. Stop all work on it now they are doing damage, grabbing land and wasting public money every single day.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      Why? Follow the money as ever, and look at the relationships, between those – the class – who would receive it, and those – the class again – who decided that they should.

      To be fair, there would be benefits from the project, but there are more urgent areas requiring spending.

    • jerry
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      @LL; “Farage last night on LBC had a discussion on HS2 and could not find any callers who were really in favour of it.

      Fancy that! Read the railway industry press and you will not find many, if any, voices of decent…

      “Trains are not even very energy efficient all considered door to door.”

      Read: Mr Lifelogic doesn’t like trains so he makes up hocus-pocus science to ‘prove’ how inefficient they are, just as he tried with tidal lagoons the other week, whilst then extolling the virtues of air-travel…

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        It is not hocus-pocus science and I do like catching trains plus I can work on them as I travel. But all things considered staff, track maintenance, connections needed at each end, security, indirect routes, stations, ticketing and the likes they are less efficient certainly than most car journeys that go directly from A to B. A full car is nearly always more efficient. Read some sensible studies on the topic rather than the pro rail propaganda.

        • margaret howard
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic

          ” A full car is nearly always more efficient.”

          Of course it is. But how many full cars do you see on the roads? The majority just have a driver.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:38 am | Permalink

            Trains are not full either. People by definition tend to catch the full ones (and so have a misleading impression of how full buses and trains are). A statistical sampling error.

            On the reverse commute and at off peak times they are largely empty. They also do not go directly door to door and need many staff and special tracks. Look at some of the studies they are not very carbon or energy efficient.

      • NickC
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Jerry said: “Read the railway industry press and you will not find many, if any, voices of [dissent]”.

        And that’s not self-serving in what way?

  3. agricola
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the enlightenment. My guess is that Italy wants it both ways. The freedom to solve their problems in their own Italian way combined with the perceived security of money from the EU to keep the country afloat. As yet they do not have the courage to go it alone. I would anticipate a lot of political trouble for Italy and the EU were they to be forced into a federal EU against the will of their electoate. Were they to come out completely and revert to their Lira we would be back to annual changes of government and depreciation of the currency every year. It is not in the Italian DNA to be like the Germans. One is Ferrari with all its beauty, flourish, blistering sound and speed; the other is teutonic, relentless performance, which at the moment has the edge. Europe and life requires them both, but is there room in the one size fits all EU.

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Control of Italy,or more specifically Rome,may be embedded in the German psyche;mediaeval iterations of Germanic would-be imperialist rulers saw Rome as legitimizing their imperial pretensions to being a north-of-the-Alps successor to the Roman Empire.

      • margaret howard
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        I suppose empire building is in the British psyche as well. But we didn’t stick to Europe after our bad experiences and defeat in the Hundred Years war against France forced us out of trying to dominate Europe and to look further afield.

        So off we went to America, Australia, Africa, India etc etc etc – or as some so proudly claim, we built the world’s biggest ever empire

        And as for their pretensions to be the successors to the Roman empire you are aware that from the time of Charlemagne in the 9th century to 1806 when the last emperer, Francis II announced that he was laying down the imperial crown the Holy Roman (German) Empire came officially to an end after a history of a thousand years?

        • NickC
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          Margaret Howard, The “we” in your “we didn’t stick to Europe” mantra was not “we, the English”, but “we, the Franco-Norman rulers of England”. “We”, the English, did not “try to dominate Europe”, our overlords tried to retain control of their land on the continent.

        • Mitchel
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          Margaret you should set aside your romanticism,there was no continuous history-just a succession of unrelated and quite short-lived efforts-Charlemagne,Otto of Saxony,Frederick Barbarossa,etc with sometimes long gaps in between.

          Try and get hold of a 1950 essay by Professor Geoffrey Barraclough published by The Historical Association-“The Mediaeval Empire -Idea & Reality”.It will set you right in 27 pages.It is interesting how little scholarly study there has been of the Empire until recently-just one major work since the early 19th century-a highly idealised “history” by Lord Bryce-possibly you have read it!

          And,didn’t Napoleon abolish the Holy Roman Empire,having grabbed a good chunk of it to create the Kingdom of Westphalia for one of his brothers?

          • margaret howard
            Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            Mitchel

            No I haven’t read either of these two gentlemen’s books. I stick to those being written by experts whose countries were actually part of the Holy Roman Empire.

            No doubt you do the same when reading histories about the British empire by British writers rather than foreigners.

  4. Richard1
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    It would be interesting to see Lega win an outright majority and try out their flat tax policy. This policy has worked v well wherever it has been tried but we’ve never seen it in a developed western country. If it does work it could be something for Boris’s second term, along with radically lower corporation tax to lure investment to the UK.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      What is this obsession with flat tax?

      I paid higher rate tax and did not feel unduly aggrieved by this, and nor did many people that I knew.

      It just seems to be a part of populist dogma, an emblem, if you ask me.

      The high-and-mighty apparently don’t think that they should be bound to do anything, including pay tax, flat or otherwise, I’d surmise.

      • sm
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        Well, MiC, you are entitled to your views, but to me (and many others) the theory of a completely straightforward, comprehensible tax system means that the majority of those who pay tax know that everyone is being treated the same way, with far fewer opportunities for the very rich to dodge their obligations if they were that way inclined, far fewer opportunities for politicians to do ‘pork barrel’ politics, and of course far less need for layers of state bureaucracy.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          I can only repeat what Harry Redknapp said of highly-paid footballers. “How much money do they need? You can only eat three meals a day and sleep in one bed at a time”

          So everyone would not be affected in the same way. A flat tax with a low threshold would mean that the material effects on day-to-day life of taxation on those of modest means – major – would be completely different from those on the very rich – zero.

          It is not mainly about the parting with money for these people, it is apparently about personal power, and some evidently feel that they should not be required to do anything, whether it be obeying parking restrictions or paying taxes.

          In those cases whether it be flat or progressive wouldn’t make much difference I’d say.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            Yet the rich pay record amounts of tax now.
            The top 1% of earners are paying 28% of all income tax.

            A simple flat tax with a high starting point would not adversely affect those on modest means.
            You don’t start to pay income tax until you earn £12,500.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Martin,
        The real question is, would flat taxes generate more revenue than taxes with progressive rates?
        The reduction in top rates of income tax and the reduction in corporation rates has led to increased revenues.
        The increase in capital gains tax rates has led to a fall in revenues.
        The opposite to predictions made by many economists.
        Maybe a simple flat tax rate on income would also increase revenues.

      • BR
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        They don’t like funding the lives of other people, many of whom made no sensible plans as to how they would live after school finished. Or how they would bring up their 12 kids beyond ‘government money’ (aka taxpayers’ money aka other people’s money).

        If you like doing it so much, you can contribute voluntarily, perhaps you could even be on that TV show for philanthropist millionaires (aka sources of charity).

      • Richard1
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Finding an idea interesting isn’t an obsession. Those countries which have introduced flatter lower tax rates have usually found a pick up in revenues and in growth. That’s the idea. No need for virtue signalling by saying how happy you are to pay your taxes. Everyone should pay taxes according to the law. But taxes should be set so as to maximise economic incentives and so boost growth & in the long run revenues as well.

      • libertarian
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        Martin in Cardiff

        381,000 people pay more of the total tax than the lowest 20 million……

        Why should I give more than half my earnings to the state in return for exactly the same as non payers get?

  5. Dominic
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Italy will of course honour its debt obligations to the German taxpayer (ECB and Bundesbank) who must be utterly exhausted and frustrated at having to prop a basket case of an economy like Italy

    In many ways the UK is a microcosm of the EU. England like Germany is the supplier of wealth to finance transfer payments from richer to less richer regions) that keeps a political and constitutional construct together (UK and the EU). This will continue until it becomes unsustainable. Unsustainable and unstable will become a reality when interest rates start to rise, which they will eventually

    Politicians in government spending taxpayers money for political purposes is one of the cancers of the last 75 years. It will eventually bankrupt nations

  6. Peter van LEEUWEN
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Both Italy and the UK look unsettled.

    So far Italy proved to have enough cloud to in the end strike some deal with the EC, with or without a Salvini government. With the new EC and EP, southern (and eastern) countries may also have some more influence on policy than before.

    For Boris Johnson to survive, IMHO he needs to defeat Nigel Farage and distance himself from the DUP. For that he might steer towards elections early November, after which some mighty fudge could happen.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      The Conservative Party poll ratings have surged because we expect and demand a ‘no deal’ Brexit. I myself have declared support on this premise. If Boris fudges, all that support melts away again down to the hardcore EU-manic 9%. We believe that Boris is play acting to keep the EU-manic Parliament in check. So does the EU. This had better be the case or the U.K. will need a Mafia as Italy needed a Mafia to protect the people from the State. (Of course power corrupts so the Mafia went ape too).

    • agricola
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      For Boris to survive he needs to cleanly remove us from the EU with or without a FTA. It then becomes an electoral battle between nuances o conservatism. The conservatives need to rid themselves of all the fellow traveller left wing MPs and cooperate with the more radical thinking Brexit Party conservative to ensure that Labours flirtation with Marxism is consigned to the dustbin of history.

    • Woody
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      All Johnson needs to do to survive is leave the eu, then the Brexit Party has no purpose. Why should he distance himself from the DUP, at least they are there representing Ireland.

      • tim
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        A SINGLE CELLED CREATURE COULD GET BREXIT NO DEAL WTO RULES, HE HAS TO DO NOTHING! BUT QUISLING HE IS!

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      The UK isn’t unsettled. If it looks that way, that’s what the media would have you believe. The feeling on the ground is quite different.

      • Fred H
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Totally agree – the media try to hype up chaos, uncertainty and doubt. The people are more laissez-faire, we’ve been here before. Expect a sudden optimism and fresh energy once out of the chain gang membership.

    • Jiminyjim
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Luckily, PvL, Boris won’t do that. Why? Because his government and his party would be finished. You clearly understand very little about UK politics. I was told by a party of French recently that if we re-ran the referendum, the vote would be overwhelmingly for the revocation of Article 50. They had this impression because of……their media

      • bill brown
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Jiminyjim

        What is there to understand it is an embarrassing circus

        • libertarian
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          hans

          You dont seem to have apologised for spreading fake news about my views on the other thread, why is that?

          Its only embarrassing if like you hans you have no real idea of whats going on in the world

    • Richard1
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      The EU had an opportunity for a mighty fudge back in 2015-16 with Cameron. Had Cameron been able to secure a deal along the lines of his 2013 Bloomberg speech he would have had the support of most leading brexiteers, Inc If remember correctly, our distinguished host. The referendum would have then gone the other way. It would have required the UK to be a bit of a special case, a sort of voting Switzerland. But that could have been justified as the UK isn’t in the euro. But the EU were intransigent. And so we are where we are. Mrs merkel is showing signs of knocking some sense into the process on the EU side, but let’s see where that gets to. The Veradker-macron-junker-verholfsadt etc approach is a massive liability for the EU and it’s citizens.

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you, Richard1.

    • NickC
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      PvL, Yet again you prove unable to understand UK politics. It is not a case of Boris deciding to “defeat Nigel Farage and distance himself from the DUP”, it’s about leaving the EU. If we do leave the Tories are safe (well, safer than they were, though whether 3 years of May will ever be forgiven is moot). If it’s a modified dWA the Tory party is toast, and it will be Farage defeating Boris.

    • Kevin Lohse
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      To survive, Boris needs to defeat the Remainer quislings in Parliament by exiting the E.U. ON 31 October or sooner, upon which TBP will disband.

  7. formula57
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder afresh what the Bundesbank, in those day legendary for its capabilities, thought would be the outcome of joining the Euro currency. The rule of thumb that debt that cannot be repaid will not be repaid applies of course to Italy’s huge Target 2 balance.

    If Mr. Salvini is incapable of exploiting the huge leverage Italy should have against the Evil Empire then he would deserve the ignominious fate of Mr. Tsipras and his Syriza pals.

  8. Damore
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    As far as I can see all political parties want to be populist nowadays so nothing much different about the Italians- it’s how they go about it that determines one party from the other. For instance there are political groupings and individuals that have tried to retain the old values of truthfulness, decency and for the common good on one side- but on the other we can have quite the reverse- and with plenty examples abounding of fake news, lies, deceit, anything goes in that mad scramble to the top. You know what they say about the rat race- only a rat can win.

  9. Alan Jutson
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Yet another Italian Government fails !

    Perhaps all for different reasons, but this seems to be rather a habit.

    Perhaps they need a referendum !!!!!!!

  10. Mark B
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    This is Italy and Italian politics. EU or no EU life will be much the same. The EU, and in particular the EURO, provides economic discipline that only the likes of Germany can manage. As I keep saying, not until there is complete economic, political and monetary UNION the EU/ EURO crises will rumble on and on. And no matter who you care for nothing can ever change. Because when they control your currency they control you !

  11. Bryan Harris
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Italy is turning into another Greece because the EU is incapable of responding to situations meaningfully – They only know their God-damned rules have to be obeyed by all that they govern… I fear the EU will yet break the back of populism in Italy by making it impossible for them to carry out the wishes of those that elected them – an altogether familiar story.
    The EUC is totally responsible for this situation, the debt across EU nations, and the inability of countries like Italy to get out of the financial trap – It’s almost as though it were deliberate in order to subdue those that might rebel.
    I hope Italy can form a strong populist government and fight back against EU policies that have all but ruined them, but it appears that the EU would rather have impoverished subservience than wealthy collaborators.

  12. GilesB
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The President and the establishment will try to block Salvini.

    Some PD and Five Star fudge will be invited to form a government. That may be possible. But it wouldn’t last long.

    The people are fed up with current economic policies.

    Given the chance they will let a coalition of Salvini, Forsa and the Brothers have a go.

    Salvini knows that they have to break free from the Brussels squid. But he’ll bide his time.

  13. margaret
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Many from Italy are now coming as patients to my practice . Some are Italian born , some are those who have stayed in Italy for a few years and now have become dissatisfied with life there in this beautiful Country. The whole immigration problem has radically unsettled EU Countries. I see the Ramifications. Where do people escape to when lives are being threatened? and who, rather more covertly, is upsetting the balance in Eastern and African Countries?
    Fragmentation of the EU is a frightening prospect if we go with ‘divide and rule’ yet central EU do not seem to want to bend in any way to free a conglomeration of Countries yet let them be independently part of the original plan of European extension. In this complex muddle we try and see a pattern of honest Country/ EU builders but I find it impossible to begin to analyse as so many take advantage of situations and milk for their own use.
    Mrs Merkel, a lady who has many scientific Phd’s appears to be the most sensible media represented figure out there. I have faith in Germany so long as the cruel mesmeric collectivity does not raise its ugly head again.

    • L Jones
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Margaret. Your last sentence says it all about Germany. I love the place, having lived there for several years, but the ‘tomorrow belongs to me’ gusto doesn’t seem far away when a large crowd is gathered (even at a beerfest). That said, I do admire the Germans, in an ambivalent sort of way.

  14. Everhopeful
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Two devastating world wars in which men fought and died for their nations decimated the gene pool. Obviously the courageous and strong were slaughtered and now men whine and cringe under the yoke of the EU ( or rub their hands gleefully at the thought of prizes to be gained).
    Was industrial death rather than pitched battle conceived of for that very reason?
    Or was it the money that could be made from selling weapons?
    The EU has trashed what was left of the safe, diverse countries of Europe. Ruined lives.
    What a mess.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Actually I suppose that the EU has sucked dry every country it has subsumed.
      There just aren’t any capable politicians ( bar present co and a few others) left.
      Remoaners are terrified at the thought of having to legislate all on their own!

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I doubt whether it is the gene pool so much as civilisational decay in the west.Look how quickly the Soviet Union recovered from human and material losses on a scarcely imaginable scale after WWII (and more recently Russia from the trauma of the end of the USSR).

      It’s interesting to note that for over a hundred years writers have been predicting a new civilisation coming in from the East;not just assorted Russians but Europeans too-particularly Germans like Oswald Spengler and Herman Hesse.

      M Macron’s barely disguised pleading for Russia to remain part of a Europe “from Lisbon to Vladivostock” during his meeting with President Putin this week is likely to fall on deaf ears.As one commentator put it:”Futile but familiar French dream of escaping US dominance…..Europe whilst still dependent on the USA is not a strong enough magnet to draw Russia from the PRC.”

      Greater Europe is dead,long live greater Eurasia!

  15. Sea Warrior
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    There are bigger problems for Italy than just the Economy and her public finances. An expert commenter on R4 yesterday predicted that Salvini, with the aid of two other right-wing parties, would crush the left, and secure some two thirds of the seats in Italy’s lower house. I hope so. This left-right coalition, led by a centrist placeman, has achieved little. An EU-compliant leftist coalition will achieve even less. It’s time for Italy to be bold and swing right.

  16. sm
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    John, I take this post as a comment upon the very recent suggestions that the UK should have a ‘Government of National Unity’, otherwise known as ‘It Will All End In Tears’.

  17. Ian Wragg
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    You have fell into the trap of calling us Populist parties. What you really mean is parties that do what people want. The established parties throughout the West have clearly been unable to govern for the people and now Boris is busily polishing the you know what to tie us to Brussels.
    With the majority of the Tory Party having no worldly experience its about time the so called Populist parties had a crack. They can’t be worse.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Why did Trump win? Because sufficient of the electorate had had enough. Ordinary voters were tired of the ‘Washington establishment’ President after President. So ‘populist’ views won. There is a fair chance he will be re-elected! A taste of honey?

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Yes, but also because of over-representation of redneck country in the Electoral College.

        The Democrats won numerically.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          Same rules for both parties over decades and voters know the rules and can cast their vote with that in mind.
          Annoying for you Martin when you don’t win.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

          Martin in Cardiff

          By rednecks you mean working class Americans in poor states?

          What is it with idiots that after 100’s of years, they lose a vote then suddenly notice they dont like the system that was exactly the system that was used when they won a vote

          By the way John F Kennedy didn’t win the popular vote either

      • margaret howard
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        Fred H

        Nearly half the US electorate didn’t vote for Trump just like nearly half of us didn’t want Brexit.

        So you have the dangerous conundrum in both countries of a resentful educated middle class being led by a megalomaniac president who appeals to the worst instincts of the electorate while we Remainers see our children’s future destroyed by foreigner hating little Englanders.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

          Do stop playing the race card Margaret.
          Tiresome and incorrect.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

          MH

          Yeh

          Through large parts of my life complete idiots kept electing Labour governments too. Democracy is a bitch isn’t it

          You are still obsessed with the incorrect virtue signalling belief that Brexit voters dont like foreign people . You know that makes you a bigot right ?

          In fact Margaret the ONLY reason you want to remain in the EU is because you think it makes you look woke and cosmopolitan and that sadly is the reason that most ultra leavers want to stay ….

    • L Jones
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      ‘That which we call a rose….”
      Perhaps we should consider the word ”populist” a badge of honour, then?

  18. Dominic
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    But Macron told reporters on Wednesday that the demands to renegotiate the Brexit deal were “not an option”.

    He said: “We have to help the British deal with this internal democratic crisis but we mustn’t be hostage to it nor export it.”

    How long do we have to tolerate this patronising crap? The UK is one of the largest economies in the world, a nuclear power and a player and we’re being subjected to these kind of threats from an idiot like Macron

    Stop pandering, get us out now and let them do their best

    • Fred H
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      The man and his views are somewhat irrelevant. Don’t pay any attention nor concern.

      • margaret howard
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Fred H

        Neither do Macron or the rest of the world pay any attention to el presidente Boris.

        His feet on table brainlessness confirms what everyone else knows – he is a buffoon and has turned us into the world’s laughing stock.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

          Margaret Howard

          If you could speak French you would know that Macron said to Boris I cant work out if this is a coffee table or a foot stall and Boris said coffee table its too high for my foot

          Which makes you the buffoon

    • ukretired123
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I think you meant Winston Churchill quote (and many humorous others, not PC )
      “Do your worst-
      And we will do our best”

    • Kevin Lohse
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      When it comes to internal democratic crises, Macron has form, the country in ferment and his personal popularity non- existent. Margaret’s, “ cruel mesmeric collectivity” is on the streets every weekend as Macron deploys heavily-armed, poorly-trained paramilitary forces to carry out crowd control. France has a history of an elite attempting to control the masses by force. It generally ends in tears.

  19. Dave Andrews
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    “the wish of many in Italy to spend more and be taxed less”
    What a contemptuous ambition. Perhaps if Italy would spend less it would be able to tax less.
    Seems like Italy has an Italian problem, not an EU problem.

    • Edward2
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      The EU problem is the Euro.
      The exchange rate is fixed on the power of the German economy.
      Leaving countries like Italy stuck with a rate that is uncompetitive for them.

  20. Andy
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Populists and populism provides simple answers.

    This is attractive to its supporters but its big failing is that it does not recognise that the world is a complex place. Complex issues rarely have simple answers.

    This is why Italy’s government is failing. It is why Trump is a car crash. It is why Brexit is going – predictably – wrong.

    For example, it is not unreasonable for Mr Trump to want to put America first. But this simple goal hits the cold hard iron fist of reality when that policy is reciprocated by other countries. Of course Mexico is going to act on its interests – and not in Mr Trump’s. Likewise China.

    And this is where Brexit comes unstuck too. Of course the EU is going to put its interests ahead of the UKs. Why should European countries give in to the Tory bullies when it is not in their interests?

    The primary motivation of the EU is to protect its single market. The primary motivation of the Brexiteers is to try to gain a competitive advantage by slashing workers rights / consumer rights / environmental protests. Of course the EU does not want UK manufactured tat in its market. Low standards goods produced by slave labour. Of course the Brexiteer elite do want that because exploiting poorer people is the best way to make their rich buddies richer.

    Populism is basically modern day willy waving. ‘Mine is bigger than yours’ syndrome favoured largely by the little men who really do not have much to boast about.

    • Edward2
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      It is predictable you find populism irritating, as you are in the the rich young metropolitan class who hate those they feel are lesser than themselves.
      Like the old or less well educated or poorer than they see themselves.

      We have currently a battle between those who vote and those who think they know best what is right.
      Populism is the definition of that battle.
      Fortunately the ballot box and the majorities it results in, have to be respected in democracies.
      You agree obviously don’t you Andy?

      • Edward2
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Andy, I would be interested to see you provide proof that Brexiteers want ” to slash workers rights, consumer rights” and produce “low standard goods produced by slave labour”
        Either you should provide proof or shut up and stop being hysterical.

    • libertarian
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      Brace yourself… Trumps policy is IDENTICAL to the EU, they both pursue protected markets via tariff wars , its why the EU does NOT have trade deals with any of the major economies . So for once you are right, they are both coming unstuck

      So you know the Federal USA has a “single market” which its protecting

  21. Julie Williams
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    This piece nicely encapsulates why the UK should get out of the EU: these are not the kind of games we want to play.
    The more I read about the Eurozone , the more shady it appears.How many Eurozone countries have not broken the fiscal rules?
    It’s all well and good for Merkel to tell southern dates like Italy to cut spending, but they’ve been buying German goods and services and Merkel can’t keep “having her cake and eating it” , intra-Eurozone trade is down nearly 5% this year.Cheap and easy credit has left countries to expect a certain standard of life without the had work of collecting their own revenues and reality bites ,faith in the “old order” of politics breaks down, hence “populism” how I dislike that word, let’s syndicate “alternative” instead?).
    Perhaps Merkel is scared that the German taxpayer might start to realise how much they’ve paid toward nice new airports and roads in other countries whilst their “prudent” government doesn’t spend on their infrastructure.
    I’m not being smug, I’m scared too:Merkel has a way of trying to make other people pay when her plan backfire and although the UK has always been accused of being a “bad European”, we always seem to be there, bailing others out with money we haven’t got either.We need to distance ourselves as much as possible an focus on getting our own country fixed.It’s not enough that we aren’t in the Eurozone.

  22. Andy
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    So unelected El Presidente Boris has been to Berlin and has bowed to Mrs Merkel.

    She has given him 30 days to resolve the Irish border issue. This will be good seeing the Brexiteers have failed to come up with a solution for more than 3 years.

    Of course they have established the brilliant concept of ‘alternative arrangements’ – without ever bothering to figure out what those alternative arrangements are.

    Perhaps technology could work. How about a time machine! When you want to cross the Brexit hard border simply go back to a period between 1999 and 2019 when there was no hard border to cross. Easy!

    Anyway, what Mrs Merkel has done is brilliant. She has made it El Presidente’s job to figure it out. He gets the blame when he fails.

    • Glenn Vaughan
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      “Anyway, what Mrs Merkel has done is brilliant.” Andy

      No surprise at this strongly pro-German message from this particular individual as it complements his desire to imprison Brexiteers.

      • L Jones
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Mr Vaughan – most of us would agree that Andy isn’t quite that deep-thinking. She/he (for reasons it’s hard to fathom) has a great disdain and disrespect for her/his country. She/he will repeat any silly ‘project fear’ tosh, true or false, she/he thinks will display just how big a chip she/he has on her/his shoulder. We have no idea why she/he wishes to remain imprisoned – it’s impossible to see through her/his vindictiveness.

        Perhaps she/he should get out more into the real world and read something informative instead of unquestioningly digesting everything negative the dwindling remain camp throw at us.

      • margaret howard
        Posted August 23, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        Glenn

        Imprison Brexiteers? You’ve managed to do that all by yourselves without any outside help.

    • NickC
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Andy, Boris was elected just like any other MP.

      Merkel cannot have “given him 30 days to resolve the Irish border issue” because it is an EU issue, not a UK issue (Boris repeated that we’re not putting up a hard border).

      No “alternative” arrangements are necessary. EU standards must be complied with when exporting to the EU, or trading within the EU, by law. That’s no different to now. Any business failing to comply will lose their customers and risk being prosecuted. As now. That only leaves smuggling. Which is already illegal.

    • margaret howard
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      “So unelected El Presidente Boris has been to Berlin and has bowed to Mrs Merkel”

      Good thing he didn’t try to put his foot on her polished table. What a slob.

  23. Andy
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I was briefly worried today when more than a dozen top doctors expressed concerns about drug availability post Brexit.

    But then I remember that these top doctors are part of the remainer elite and that they couldn’t possibly know more about the NHS and medicine than Mark Francois, Andrew Bridgen, Iain Duncan Smith and all those other mighty Brexiteers intellectuals who grace our TV screens regularly with their coherent and well formed arguements.

    I also remembered that me and my remain voting family are healthy and do not need medicines. Whereas a lot of the old people who backed Brexit do need medicines and are therefore quite prepared for the shortages they voted for.

    • Richard1
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Did they explain who is to launch a blockade of medicines and why?

    • sm
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Would those top doctors be part of the professional group of experts that, according to recent research done by AgeUK, have consistently and dangerously over-prescribed medication to nearly 2 million pensioners?

      Many of us, of course, will know that this has been going on for years, as it’s easier and quicker to stuff someone up with anti-biotics and anti-depressants and pro-whatevers than take a few minutes to have a rational conversation about the priorities in a patient’s life.

      • margaret howard
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        sm

        It takes two to tango. Doctor friends tell me that unless they prescribe something their patients will complain. They have to deal with people who come to their clinics with the smallest complaints when going to the chemist for an aspirin would be enough.

        It is not the doctor’s job to discuss the patient’s priorities. He is not a psychiatrist nor does the government allow him to spend any length of time with a patient.

        • Fred H
          Posted August 23, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          In general I think GPs are expected to have max 8 mins per appointment. Typically it would seem patients getting a win on the appointment lead-time lottery expect a prescription – a magic cure, or a badge of honour to compare to friends/relatives. Decades ago we had a Dr in Wokingham who most of the time said ‘take an aspirin, or a hot drink, whisky maybe, and try a good night’s rest’ – a lot of the time we respected his suggestion. But then sometimes a year or 3 went between us wanting to see him. Age of course now increases that.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Andy, is this the Royal Pharmaceutical Society you are quoting from the bmj who said, “because three quarters of medicines come to the UK through the main Channel crossing between the UK and France—where disruption is expected to last as long as six months after a no-deal Brexit—these medicines were particularly vulnerable to severe delays.”…

      “Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish general practitioners committee, said that doctors throughout Scotland were experiencing drug shortages, some of which had been going on for three to four years. “They cover a wide variety of medications, including various creams, ear drops, certain types of blood pressure pills, antidepressants, HRT [hormone replacement therapy], and others,” he said. “It’s frustrating for doctors and patients alike.” He said that a no-deal Brexit was likely to exacerbate current shortages, “no matter how much you try to plan for it.””

      These quotes make me wonder, who do we buy these drugs from?
      How much do the UK spend importing drugs for UK citizens?
      Are there problems air freighting them if the French ports are closed?
      Can the EU companies exporting to us afford to lose so much business?
      Are there other worldwide drug companies that could supply us in the worst case scenario?
      How long would it take to start manufacturing our own drugs in the UK and why have we exported so much of this essential product manufacture in the first place if there have been transport problems for 3-4 years?

      • L Jones
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        And why would the EU be so immoral, dishonourable and vindictive as to block such a thing as medicines to a neighbour? (Andy – why?)

        Isn’t the UK home to some of the big pharmaceutical companies? One presumes they’re exporting too (but I know little about it) so isn’t the potential there to supply ourselves with necessary medicines?

        It’s almost as bad as relying on foreign countries to equip our military!

      • Edward2
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        Your post raises some interesting questions Tracey.
        It seems remainers need a narrative that simply blames Brexit.

        The main question for them to answer is who is going to stop European companies sending medical products to the UK after November 1st.
        It seems unlikely that HM Customs will block imports when they arrive in the UK.
        And why will French ports try to block goods from coming here?

    • NickC
      Posted August 22, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Andy, Do you worry that people in New Zealand don’t get their medicines because NZ is not in the EU? If not, why not?

      • L Jones
        Posted August 22, 2019 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        There are so many sensible questions here in response to Andy’s usual criticism of our/her country.
        But she/he never answers them.
        (It could, of course, be that our host doesn’t think her/his reply is worthy of airtime!)

    • Fred H
      Posted August 23, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Andy – why would you worry when you are all healthy? Invented concern again?

  24. rose
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    If the first PM chosen by the Coalition had been allowed by the EU and the President to be the PM instead of the smiling substitute, the situation might be different.

  25. William Long
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Italy has been a major victim of the Euro and unlike Greece, it is big enough to be a significant nuisance to the Eurocrats if it shows itself determined to do something about the problem. The question is whether Mr Salvini really means business, assuming he wins the election convincingly; he will also need the charisma to take the people with him, and so far they have not shown themselves over enthusiastic about leaving the Euro, so more fudge must be the most likely outcome.

  26. Gareth Warren
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Italy is an interesting conundrum where it requires ever more borrowing but the idea of not supplying it bankrupts those who lend. Here is an example too why a country should never borrow in a currency it does not own.

    If interest rates go up then the debt will have to be forgiven, I suspect the initiator of that event will be more expensive oil driven by lack of current future investment, but this could take years.

    As for the future politics it all feels rather irrelevant, the only real thing they can do is issue a currency as a challenge to the ECB, everything else will be blocked by the EU.

  27. BR
    Posted August 22, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised that there’s not a greater movement to exit the EU and Euro in these countries.

    Even the populists don’t seem to be in proposing exit (or they don’t feel that they can say so – yet).

    To be fair, although I loathe the EU, in this respect they’re correct. Countries in massive debt and with structural problems such as excessive pensions at a low age, low tax receipts and enforcement, high numbers in the public sector paid high remuneration…. and they want to tax less and spend more?

    When do they plan to pay the piper? And who (which generation) do they think will ever do it, if not now? Presumably they hope things get so bad that they default on their debts and start over.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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