Italy plunges into political crisis after govt talks collapse

Italy's Prime minister candidate Giuseppe Conte (C) leaves after a meeting with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella on May 27, 2018 at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2018
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Italy plunges into political crisis after govt talks collapse

ROME: Italy was mired in fresh political chaos after the populist parties’ bid to take power collapsed with the president set to appoint Monday a pro-austerity economist to lead a technocrat government ahead of new elections.
President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the nomination of fierce euroskeptic Paolo Savona as economy minister, enraging the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League and prompting their prime minister-elect to step aside.
“I have given up my mandate to form the government of change,” said lawyer and political novice Giuseppe Conte, 53, plunging the country into a political crisis nearly three months after March’s inconclusive general election.
Mattarella said he had accepted every proposed minister except Savona, who has called the euro a “German cage” and said that Italy needs a plan to leave the single currency “if necessary.”
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, denounced the veto, decrying what they called meddling by Germany, ratings agencies and financial lobbies.
Mattarella has summoned Carlo Cottarelli, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, for talks Monday, with a temporary technocrat government on the table as Italy faces the strong possibility of new elections in the autumn.
Cottarelli, 64, was director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as “Mr. Scissors” for making cuts to public spending in Italy.
He will struggle to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League commanding a majority in both houses.
“They’ve replaced a government with a majority with one that won’t obtain one,” said Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio to supporters at a rally near Rome.

A former judge of Italy’s constitutional court, Mattarella has refused to bow to what he saw as “diktats” from the two parties which he considered contrary to the country’s interests.
He had watched for weeks as Five Star and the League set about trying to strike an alliance that would give Italy’s hung parliament a majority.
Mattarella said that he has done “everything possible” to aid the formation of a government, but that an openly euroskeptic economy minister ran against the parties’ joint promise to simply “change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view.”
“I asked for the (economy) ministry an authoritative person from the parliamentary majority who is consistent with the government program... who isn’t seen as a supporter of a line that could probably, or even inevitably, provoke Italy’s exit from the euro,” Mattarella said.
The president said Conte refused to support “any other solution” and then, faced with Mattarella’s refusal to approve the choice of Savona, gave up his mandate to be prime minister.
The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, were infuriated by Mattarella’s refusal to accept Savona, a respected financier and economist.
Salvini, who was Savona’s biggest advocate and a fellow euroskeptic, said on Sunday that Italy wasn’t a “colony,” and that “we won’t have Germany tell us what to do.”
“Why don’t we just say that in this country it’s pointless that we vote, as the ratings agencies, financial lobbies decide the governments,” a livid Di Maio said in a video on Facebook.
Later on Italian television he called for impeaching Mattarella.
“I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella... then to the polls,” Di Maio said


UK minister Brokenshire says colleagues must rally behind PM May on Brexit

Updated 2 min 23 sec ago
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UK minister Brokenshire says colleagues must rally behind PM May on Brexit

LONDON: British housing minister James Brokenshire called on his government colleagues to rally behind Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan before a meeting of her top ministerial team on Tuesday to discuss her proposals for a deal.
On Monday, May urged the European Union not to allow a disagreement over how to ensure there was no return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland derail talks which stalled at the weekend.
“The message is we need to support the prime minister in making further progress this week ... and therefore move to that position of getting that positive outcome for our country,” Brokenshire told BBC radio.
“Whilst making sure that it is our entire United Kingdom that leaves the European Union, the single market and the customs union because it is our UK that is just so important.”
May said on Monday she believed a Brexit agreement was still achievable although European Council President Donald Tusk warned that the chances of a no-deal divorce had increased. May is to address her 27 EU peers on Brexit at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
The British prime minister is battling to not only satisfy EU demands, but also keep on board euroskeptics in her Conservative Party who have been vocal critics of her plan, and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on whose support she relies on in parliament.
The BBC reported that eight senior ministers had met on Monday evening to discuss the issue and had expressed concern that any ‘backstop plan’ to avoid a hard border after Britain leaves the bloc next March should be time-limited. The EU has refused to set an end date.