Sunday’s Italian elections confirmed growing anti-EU sentiment across the country, with Eurosceptic parties – such as the Five Star Movement (5SM) and La Lega – dominating proceedings.
Although no government has yet been formed, due to the hung parliament result, Brexiteers will be delighted to hear that politicians from the aforementioned parties are now calling for no tariffs or quotas to be in place in the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
“Great Britain is a friendly country with a long tradition of trading with Italy. You made a free choice with Brexit and I very much hope that it will be possible to maintain completely open trade with the EU without any penalties,” leader of the Lega Nord party Matteo Salvini told the Telegraph.
Mr Salvini, who has promised to deport “hundreds of thousands” of illegal migrants if he enters office, could potentially serve as Italy’s next Prime Minister. President Sergio Mattarella will ultimately decide which coalition will govern Italy for the next term.
Meanwhile, leader of the Five Star Movement Luigi Di Maio also made comments sympathetic to Brexit:
“We shouldn’t try to punish the British people for choosing Brexit,” Luigi Di Maio said.
Although these parties are seemingly siding with the UK to express their discontent with the EU, there is another, perhaps more important reason for their pro-free trade stances with the UK in a post-Brexit context.
In 2016, Italy exported almost US$25 billion to the UK, and many Italian businesses fear an unfavorable EU-UK trade deal will inevitably reduce their market share in the UK, or force them out of it altogether if the UK imposes hardline retaliatory measures against EU products.
Italian export agency SACE has previously warned that Italian exports to the UK will fall as a result of Brexit.
La Lega’s economic spokesperson Claudio Borghi also raised this issue.
“There will be no blind trust in what Germany wants. Punishment or anything of the kind would be sheer stupidity. We export more to the UK than we import back and we certainly don’t want to hurt our own client,” MP Borghi said.
Italy’s own economic issues are perhaps another reason why alternative, populist parties performed well in the election, especially amongst youngsters, as Italy has a youth unemployment rate of 32 percent — the third highest in Europe.