Italy Should Give May Easy Brexit Deal, Opposition Head Says

  • EU should aim at tailor-made Brexit deal: Five Star’s Di Maio
  • Talks shouldn’t seek to punish U.K., Di Maio says in interview

The European Union should aim at a tailor-made Brexit deal that grants the U.K. both access to the single market and controls on immigration, a leader of Italy’s biggest opposition party and potential successor to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

QuickTake Brexit

“Our objective is not to use negotiations between the U.K. and the EU to punish the U.K. because it dared to vote for Brexit,” lower house deputy-speaker Luigi Di Maio, of the anti-establishment and euroskeptic Five Star Movement, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Rome office on Wednesday.

Renzi has promised to resign if he is defeated in a Dec. 4 referendum on constitutional reform, potentially opening the door to Five Star. Di Maio is demanding an early election if he succeeds in defeating the prime minister’s plans, though President Sergio Mattarella could still name a stop-gap premier which would fend off the populists for the time being.

Luigi Di Maio on Oct. 5.

Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

“We should launch talks that give citizens what they voted for, not use the negotiations as a truncheon to display to all the others who stay in the EU,” said Di Maio, whose party is tied with Renzi’s Democratic Party in opinion polls. “A country that wants to limit the entry of migrants can do so, otherwise it is no longer a state.”

The U.K. can have migration controls and access to the single market, Di Maio said, while insisting on safeguards for Italian firms. Today there is no political will to dissociate the four freedoms, including freedom of movement, that several European leaders have said are necessary for access to the single market, he added.

Merkel’s Stance

Di Maio’s comments about Brexit run counter to statements from many high-ranking officials in the EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the BDI industry lobby in Berlin on Thursday, said complete freedom of movement must be tied to full access to the European single market for the U.K. Any wavering from that rule would lead to preferential treatment and damage the EU, she said. Di Maio said he thought that stance would dissolve once talks start in earnest.

“I think that when these negotiations start, the tailor-made approach will be routine,” he said. “Now there are elections due in France and Germany so everything is blocked, including on migration policies. But after these elections either the EU changes its approach in general, and Brexit can be an opportunity, or it will implode.”

Di Maio singled out British ex-premier David Cameron as a leader he admires because of his respect for voters’ wishes. “I appreciated him for being for ‘Remain’ but guaranteeing a referendum to his people because he had written it into his election manifesto,” he said.

Di Maio said Five Star wants a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro, which it blames for slowing growth, a revision of the Dublin rules which require asylum-seekers to make their request in the first EU country they enter, and EU partners to respect a plan for taking in quotas of migrants from Italy and Greece.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz, in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, said he expects Italy will leave the euro area. Politicians won’t be able to save a troubled euro region, probably causing it to break apart at some point in the future, Stiglitz said.

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