POLITICS
31/05/2018 18:16 BST | Updated 31/05/2018 18:18 BST

Brexit Briefing: Who Wants The Italian Job?

All you need to know from the world of Brexit

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1) This Is Why Everyone Made Out They Were Italian Constitutional Experts All Week

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All eyes were on Italy this week as the political scene underwent more twists than a fork in a plate of spaghetti.

The country has been without a Government since the elections in March delivered a stalemate.

Eurosceptic parties the 5 Star Movement and the League having been trying to stitch together a coalition in recent weeks, and a breakthrough seemed to be on the cards when Giuseppe Conte was put forward by the two groups as the new Prime Minister.

But talks fell apart when the parties announced they wanted Paolo Savona to be a finance minister in the new Government.

Savona is a fierce critic of the euro, and in a recent book dubbed the single currency a “German cage”.

His views were too much for Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who blocked his appointment amid fears any attempt to take Italy out of the euro could lead to a constitutional crisis.

The veto angered the two parties, and they called time on trying to form a new Government.

President Mattarella then asked a former director of the International Monetary Fund Carlo Cottarelli to serve as a caretaker Prime Minister until new elections could be held to break the electoral deadlock.

But before that plan could get off the ground, 5 Star and the League decided they might be willing to form a Government without Savona in the finance department, and on Thursday reopened talks about how to move forward.

2) This Is a Brexit Briefing - Why Are You Telling Me This?

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Because, dear reader, it could have an impact on the EU’s negotiating stance with the UK. 

The fiasco over Savona’s blocking has poured more oil on anti-EU fires in Italy, with Eurosceptics in Italy and beyond claiming the move is further evidence of just how much a European nation is in thrall to Brussels.

While opinion polling in Italy shows there is no public appetite for leaving the euro, a fresh election could see Eurosceptic parties – who paint themselves out as anti-establishment – win even more support from voters.

Brussels will not want to do those parties’ campaigning for them by giving the UK a generous deal in the Brexit talks. Any sense that the future is bright outside of the EU will only encourage anti-European sentiment. Likewise, act too tough and the eurosceptics will be able to paint Brussels out as tyrant who is more than happy to cut off his nose to spite his face. And who wants to stay in a club with a boss like that?

3) Michel Barnier Doesn’t Like Hide-And-Seek

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The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was his usual charming self at the weekend as he delivered a speech on Brexit in Portugal.

Speaking in Lisbon, Barnier accused the UK of having the temerity of not telling the EU what it actually wants from the negotiations. The Frenchman is apparently appalled the UK hasn’t set out exactly what it wants.

“All we ask for is clarity,” he said, adding: “Because, to negotiate effectively, you need to know what the other side wants. A negotiation cannot be a game of hide-and-seek.”

He then issued a ‘get-a-move-on’ plea to Theresa May and David Davis, saying he and his team are “ready, at any time, to intensify our negotiations at technical, legal and political level.”

Of course, while Barnier is keen for the UK to get a move on (i.e. back down), the EU is standing resolute with its positions:

 “I can see the temptation of a blame game to pin the negative consequences of Brexit on the EU. But we will not be swayed by this. I will not be swayed. It is the United Kingdom that is leaving the European Union. It cannot, on leaving, ask us to change who we are and how we work. When it comes to the economy, and foreign policy, the best way to influence the decision of the European Union is to be in the European Union. The United Kingdom wants to leave. That is its decision. Not ours. And that has consequences.”

That’s exactly the kind of rhetoric which Five Star and the League will be whacking into Google Translate to make sure Italian voters are fully aware of the attitude emanating from Brussels towards those who dare disobey its orders.

4) Meanwhile In Whitehall

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Just three extra civil servants have been recruited by the Scotland Office to work on Brexit – despite the current constitutional deadlock between Westminster and Edinburgh.

Information obtained by HuffPost UK shows while many Government departments have seen their workforce swell to deal with Brexit matters, the Scotland Office has only seen a 4% increase.

The Scottish Parliament and UK Government are currently in a stand-off over how powers brought back from Brussels should be devolved.

Holyrood voted against Theresa May’s Brexit legislation earlier this month, meaning the Prime Minister may be forced to impose new laws on Scotland if a compromise cannot be reached.

The Scotland Office is not the only department with responsibility for a devolved part of the UK to receive limited support for Brexit.

The Wales Office has created five extra positions, of which four have been filled.

The Northern Ireland Office refused to tell HuffPost UK how many additional posts had been created to deal with Brexit, but did confirm “a central EU exit co-ordinating team of 7” has been broken up so “core EU exit work is distributed more widely across the whole department.”

It also confirmed it had received just £598,000 in additional funding from the Treasury to deal with Brexit matters.

The Freedom of Information requests also revealed the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has recruited 411 new civil servants in response to Brexit, while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has created 220 positions – filling 172 of them.

The Department for Exiting the EU is currently operating at 10% below capacity, with just 653 posts filled out of 725.

Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

Robin Lustig on why we shouldn’t bet on the EU’s survival

Ben Worthy on Brexit and Theresa May’s four constitutional crises