The chaotic political situation in Italy is putting the country's membership of the euro front and centre – and with it, the longer term question of the European Union.
Over the weekend, unelected former IMF official Carlo Cottarelli — dubbed “Mr. Scissors” because of his support for austerity — was named interim Prime Minister.
President Sergio Mattarella installed Cottarelli after vetoing the economy minister, 81-year-old economist Paolo Savona, nominated by a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right Northern League, over his calls for Italy to leave the euro.
But this triggered howls of outrage, with Five Stars leader Luigi Di Maio dubbing the decision as Italian democracy’s “darkest” moment, demanding Mattarella be impeached.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said he was in an “animal rage.”
The two parties, who competed against each other during the March elections, must now decide whether to join forces ahead of a fresh election.
Salvini yesterday declared that any new election would be “a real and true referendum … between who wants Italy to be a free country and who wants it to be servile and enslaved.”
The crisis is spooking European markets. The FTSE100 was trading down 0.8 per cent early morning, while the Dax and the Cac were both down 0.4 per cent.
But for Brexiters there could be a silver lining.
Cottarelli may be "obsessively pro-EU" as analyst David Buik puts it, but if the voters back the anti-establishment coalition as seems likely, the UK could have an instant boost to its support in withdrawal talks.
Fabio Castaldo, the highest-ranking Five Stars member of the European Parliament, told the Telegraph that a new government involving his party would force Brussels to the negotiating table and demand a string of reforms.
And he vowed to support to the UK over ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Telling the paper the vote was “a matter of respect for democracy”, Castaldo said: “We will try to do our best to bring political pressure (so) that the process will be fair and there will be no attempt for any kind of punishment of the UK. This is an attitude we will not tolerate."
Meanwhile a senator for Italy’s Eurosceptic League party has said Brexit offers an opportunity to forge closer ties with the UK.
Armando Siri told the Press Association there were shared values between the two countries, adding "This is an opportunity to further foster bilateral relations which are historical between Italy and the United Kingdom … we share values."