Gianluigi Paragone, a former senator for the anti-establishment 5Star Movement who has been dubbed “Italy’s Nigel Farage”, is hoping to capitalise on anti-EU sentiment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The politician has announced the launch of a single-issue party, much like the Brexit Party, to push for Italy’s departure from the EU.
Mr Paragone is hoping to force a new debate over a potential “Italexit”, as anti-EU sentiment starts to build in the country.
Many Italians felt abandoned by the bloc during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country soon became Europe’s epicentre.
Italy’s hospitals were quickly overwhelmed, health care workers were desperately running out of personal protective equipment and life-saving equipment was scarce.
But the plea for help largely fell on deaf ears, with member states ignoring Italy’s call for help.
Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner responsible for crisis management, said: “No member state responded to Italy’s request and to the commission’s call for help.
“Which meant that not only is Italy is not prepared… Nobody is prepared…
“The lack of response to the Italian request was not so much a lack of solidarity. It was a lack of equipment.”
Now, as Italy starts to recover from the ill-effects of the virus and a strict lockdown, the country fears it will be excluded from the bloc’s plans for economic recovery.
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“But now people have understood that we were better off before.”
He claims the fall of the EU is inevitable and says Italy needs to quit before it is too late.
He said: “When we see that the house is collapsing, we don’t wait for the roof to fall on our heads.”
But Mr Paragone isn’t the only one vying to push the issue and be seen as Mr Farage’s Italian equivalent.
Vittorio Sgarbi, a libertarian art critic and former junior minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing government is attempting to force a referendum on the issue.
He believes the nation should be given the option to vote on Italy’s membership of the bloc and points out it has been over three decades since the public was last consulted on the matter.
Mr Sgarbi told Politico: “We should allow citizens to reflect.
“Four million people said no in 1989. I believe there are more now.”