Italy would be the most likely of the “Big Four” member states to consider exiting the European Union if Brexit proves to be beneficial to Britain, according to a Euronews-commissioned poll.
Data from the Redfield and Wilton Strategies survey found that nearly half of Italians would be likely to support their country leaving the EU if the UK and its economy are regarded to be in good health in five years.
In the event, France and Spain both showed moderate support for changing its relationship with the bloc, while Germany was the member state least likely of the four major players to consider leaving the Union.
The poll findings come just weeks after the founding of a new anti-EU party in Italy.
Former TV journalist Gianluigi Paragone launched his “Italexit” party on July 23, just two days after Italy secured a considerable tranche of the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund to help steady its pandemic-hit economy.
All eyes on Brexit
The survey gauged the opinion of 1,500 people in each of the four countries — 6,000 people in total — between July 17-18.
Of the EU’s “Big Four,” respondents in Italy were the most in favour of leaving the EU in five years’ time if Brexit is seen to be benefiting the UK, with 45 per cent either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the idea of an “Italexit.”
France was the next most favourable country but lagged considerably behind its Mediterranean neighbour at 38 per cent, followed closely by Spain with 37 per cent.
Germans were the least likely to consider such a move with just 30 per cent in favour.
Following a similar trend, the participants polled in each country were asked in a separate question whether they thought the UK would benefit from leaving the EU in the long-term, even if there were short-term economic problems.
A significant number of respondents in France (45 per cent) and Italy (43 per cent) all agreed that that the UK would prosper outside of the bloc.
In Spain, 35 per cent believed Brexit would ultimately be a success for the UK, while only 31 per cent of Germans agreed to some extent compared to 43 per cent who disagreed.
In light of the landmark €1.82 trillion EU budget and COVID-19 recovery package, political commentators have questioned the timing of the announcement of a new Eurosceptic party in Italy and its long-term prospects.
Promising to free Italy “from the cage of the European Union and the single currency,” the nascent Italexit party has modelled itself on Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the UK and hopes for similar success.
Originally elected in 2018 as a senator for the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Italexit’s founder and leader Paragone, 48, became an independent in the Senate earlier this year having been expelled from his party after he opposed it joining the pro-EU Democratic Party in government.
“It is too soon to assess the real electoral potential of the new Italexit party,” Dr Mattia Zulianello, a political scientist at the University of Birmingham, told Euronews.
“The Italian party system is already overcrowded by the presence of various parties being critical of the EU, in various forms and degrees: Salvinis League, Melonis Brothers of Italy and the Five Star Movement.
“Such parties have considerable electoral support, and the electoral prospects of the new Italexit party will pretty much depend on its capacity to steal voters from these parties.”
While a poll conducted in June by the Istituto Piepoli suggested only 7 per cent of Italians would vote for a party campaigning to leave the EU, there has been growing disillusionment with the European project in recent years.
In the Euronews-Redfield and Wilton Strategies survey, when asked whether they thought the EU membership had a positive or negative effect on their country, 32 per cent of Italians agreed that being a member state had a positive or very positive effect. 34 per cent thought being a member of the EU had a somewhat or very negative impact, the highest percentage among participants in the four countries polled.
This is in contrast to Spain, where 57 per cent of those polled believed EU membership had, on balance, a positive effect on the country compared to just 15 per cent who believed the opposite was the case.
47 per cent of Germans and 39 per cent of French people saw the effects of EU membership in a largely positive light compared to 19 per cent and 24 per cent respectively.