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Italy's right sees referendum as vote against Europe

REUTERS
ROME
Published

A ‘No' vote in Sunday's referendum on constitutional reform would be a slap in the face to Europe, said the head of the rightist Northern League, pledging to pull Italy from the euro if he wins the next national elections.

Matteo Salvini, who has said he would run for prime minister, has helped lead the campaign against the government's planned overhaul of the constitution, saying it does not address Italy's main problems.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says his reform will boost political stability in a country that has had 63 governments since 1948, and has promised to resign if he loses the vote. In an interview with Reuters, Salvini said that if the ‘No' camp won, Italy should hold elections in 2017, a year ahead of schedule. "This ‘No' vote will also be a ‘No' vote against the rules and regulations of Europe, which have been disastrous for Italy," Salvini said, adding that EU austerity measures had shredded the Italian economy.

EU leaders, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, have thrown their weight behind Renzi, fearful that his resignation might unleash political and economic turmoil.

The 43-year-old Salvini said Europe had let Italy down, limiting its ability to salvage its debt-laden banks and doing little to help it deal with an influx of almost half a million migrants over the past three years.

A vocal supporter of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and a fierce critic of mass immigration, Salvini said he would place quitting the single euro currency at the heart of his election manifesto. "We want a more just currency, which would probably be valued 20 percent lower than the actual euro, giving our companies 20 percent more chance to export," he said.

A survey published by La Stampa newspaper last week said 71 percent of Italians thought leaving the euro would make Italy's fragile economy even worse, but Salvini dismissed the polls and said he was working with economists on a plan for withdrawal.

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