Given this looks set to drag on for some time ahead, I will write this article here and now and then shut up about it. It is a Remainer trope that that the Brexiteers are on their last legs; that they see the dream dying and are wrapped up in an angry phase of denial about it all. For a while I figured this was wishful thinking on the part of the Remainers. Now it has become clear that they are correct, at least about Brexiteer desperation.
There has been a glut of articles from right of centre media outlets about the political situation in Italy over the past couple of weeks, almost none of them remotely informed. What they are all trying to say in slightly different ways is that Italy is on the verge of having an explicitly Eurosceptic government, and this will undoubtedly set off a chain reaction that leads to the demise of the EU. The European Union being destroyed, it now seems, was always an integral part of Brexit, something we didn’t discover until after June 2016. In fact, the plan for leaving the EU seemed to be:
- Get an In/Out referendum on EU membership
- Win said referendum
- Start threating the EU with a walk out of negotiations, right from the start
- This will lead to fragmentation of the EU, with Britain picking up the pieces.
- Should this fragmentation not occur, panic and jump on any remote sign that this is starting to happen as proof the whole plan was a good idea.
Right, back to Italy – briefly. The last Italian general election, which took place a few months ago, witnessed both the centre-right and the centre-left coalitions come up short. Just some background: while Italy nominally has a multi-party system, truth is they hunt in packs and either right or left are the victor. Except this time, neither managed to win, but rather the hard to define Five Star Movement got enough seats to call the shots. Or so one would have thought: having agreed a programme with the far-right element of the centre-right coalition, who were willing to break off and form a government with M5S, the president of the country then refused to play ball. Thus, Italians will almost certainly be heading back to the polls soon.
What does this have to do with Brexit and why are British Leavers getting highly worked up about it all? They claim that Five Star and Lega Nord, the two parties that were to form a government, were Eurosceptic and that this would lead to the coveted end of the EU all by itself. For reference, neither party even put leaving the Euro, never mind the EU itself, in their manifestos – to be fair, both of them had made noise about leaving the single currency before, but that is a world away from saying you’ll drag Italy out of it. The idea of Italy leaving the EU is nowhere on the political map there, so this really is a case of making the world’s tiniest molehill into Mount Everest.
Ah, Brexiteers retort, but with this unprecedented turmoil embroiling Italian politics at present anything could happen! In fact, there is nothing that special about what’s happening in Italy at the moment; what really would be weird would be a stable government led by a highly competent yet charismatic individual who looked set to govern the country for at least the next half a decade. Italy has had 43 changes of prime minister since the end of the Second World War. Any government lasting more than a couple of years is truly something special. The idea that this latest episode involving different populist parties first struggling to agree a common programme and then clashing with the Italian establishment is just more of the same.
The EU is not falling apart any time soon, and if it does, Italy is very unlikely to be the catalyst. Brexiteers should move onto something else to cling to.