Politics Betting: Italy favourite for next EU exit vote

Italian athletes on parade at the Winter Olympics
How will Italy's new government work with other EU countries?
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At the end of a dramatic week in southern Europe, Italy and Spain both have new governments. Meanwhile, the odds on a second Brexit referendum have shortened and there are calls for Gove to replace May. Max Liu reports...

"Betfair has a market on the next EU country to hold an in-out referendum. The odds on Italy have shortened to [2.52] and they are the favourites to put the question to their people next."

European Union leaders are concerned about a new wave of political instability in southern Europe. This week, Italy and Spain both got new premiers, leaving European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker concerned that the changes could destabilise Europe's political consensus and worried about the rise of anti-Brussels backlash in some of the continent's warmer countries.

Conte and Sanchez take office at end of dramatic week

Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has taken office after the conservative Mariano Rajoy, who governed the country for seven years, was ousted over a corruption scandal. Sanchez's Socialist Party holds only a quarter of the seats in the Spanish parliament and is currently putting together a cross-party cabinet.

The next Spanish general election is slated for 2020 but it will be intriguing to see if Sanchez can hold the government together until then.

In Italy, meanwhile, Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as prime minister on Friday. His appointment is the result of a last-minute coalition deal to end the political deadlock that began with inconclusive election results at the beginning of March.

The deal, between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the right-wing League party means there's no need for a snap general election, and should put an end to months of uncertainty which has spooked financial markets. Italy is the eurozone's third-largest economy.

How will Italy's populists govern?

Conte, a law professor, who has never held political office before, will be officially the most powerful figure in Italy. However, it's the two parties that will call the shots. And they both give Juncker plenty to ponder. In theory, the parties come from opposite ends of the Italian political spectrum - with Five Star aiming to shake up the status quo and the League, who are allies of France's far right Marine Le Pen, committed to cutting immigration.

However, both parties are broadly Eurosceptic and have claimed that Italy's laws are being made by bureaucrats in Brussels. Juncker has vowed not to lecture the Italians, and not to meddle, and has conceded that the EU mishandled the situation when Syriza came to power in Greece in 2015.

It will be fascinating, however, to see how France's President Macron and Germany's Chancellor Merkel respond to Conte and co at a moment when both are pushing for further integration inside the EU.

Betfair has a market on the next EU country to hold an in-out referendum. The odds on Italy have shortened to [2.52] and they are the favourites to put the question to their people next.

Odds shorten on second Brexit referendum

Of course, when it comes to hostility to the EU, the UK are the old masters. If only we were so good at actually managing our exit in an orderly and beneficial way. Today's Sunday Times reports that the government is preparing for a no deal Brexit, variously dubbed "Doomsday Brexit" and "Armageddon", which would involve shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

In the past week, the odds on a second referendum by 2020 have shortened to [3.5].

In other Brexit-related news, a Leave-supporting Tory donor is calling for Michael Gove to replace Theresa May as Tory leader. It will be one year ago this week that the PM lost her government's majority in the general election of 2017. Speculation has been rife for 12 months about a potential successor and Gove [9.6] is currently the second favourite, behind his fellow Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg [5.8].

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