Drawing on findings from a new survey, Gianluca Piccolino, Davide Angelucci and Pierangelo Isernia find that among supporters of the Five Star Movement/League government, Brexit appears to have bolstered support for taking a harsher line with Brussels.
Italians are split on what the Brexit experience tells them about a hypothetical exit of Italy from the EU. Only 11 per cent of the sample found the Italexit option “convenient”, while a not negligible part of the sample, 28 per cent, found it “desirable, but too complicated;” 33 per cent considered it “not convenient,” and for 28 per cent it was simply “wrong”.
The assessment of how desirable and/or convenient Brexit could be as a template for Italy to follow is tainted by party preferences. Voters on the centre-left reject the Brexit model almost unanimously, while centre-right voters have more varied reactions. Among supporters of the governing parties, slightly more voters consider the Italexit option convenient than those who consider it wrong (16 per cent vs 14 per cent in the M5S and 18 per cent vs 11 per cent in the League), and those who consider the leave option “desirable but not convenient” account for 42 per cent of voters for the League and 35 per cent for the Five Star Movement. [...]
We found that 76 per cent of those who consider the Brexit lesson convenient for an ‘Italexit’ hoped that the new European Parliament would be able to give a sovereign turn to the EU. This proportion decreases to 14 per cent among those who consider the exit of Italy from the EU to be a clear mistake. Only 7 per cent of those who consider the Brexit option convenient expected a change in favour of the Union’s strengthening, with a percentage that grows up to 31 per cent and 24 per cent among those who consider the Brexit option not convenient or completely wrong respectively. [...]
If this provides a relatively coherent image of the attitudes of Italians, it is not yet clear how far the supporters of Italexit are ready to go on the collision path with European institutions. Our research offers an answer to this question. We asked our respondents what Italy should do in the event that a new economic crisis prompts EU authorities to request the implementation of severe austerity measures. Should the Italian government reject these requests offhand; should it negotiate with EU institutions to find a compromise; or should it simply accept the new austerity measures?
The Brexit lesson exerts its influence here. An absolute majority of those in favour of Brexit openly support the option of clashing with the Union. Only five per cent think the same among those who look at Brexit as a mistake. To explore in greater detail who these hardliners are and what role the Brexit lesson teaches them, we analysed how attitudes towards Brexit, expectations about the new European Parliament and voting intentions for the EP explain different negotiating attitudes. [...]
This is both good and bad news for both Italy and the EU. The bad news is that there are citizens whose positions on a potential Italexit have been fuelled by the chaotic Brexit process and who are ready “to go to the mattresses” with Europe. These citizens are mostly located among voters for the governing parties. The good news is that these citizens still represent a minority and are largely outweighed by those whose Eurosceptic positions have evidently been mitigated by the bewildering spectacle of uncertainty and confusion staged during the never-ending negotiations over the UK’s exit. Should those who wish Europe well be thankful that Brexit has proven to be such a mess?
Full survey on LSE's blog EUROPP
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