Eurozone countries will compete to leave the single currency next year and this will lead to the euro collapsing, one of the leading candidates to become Italian Prime Minister has warned.
Luigi di Maio, a senior member of the populist Five Star Movement, said: “The first country to pull the plug will save itself and the others will be in trouble.
“The first to go will have an exit strategy while the others will implode along with the euro.”
After emerging from nowhere, the party is currently running the governing Democratic Party a very close second in opinion polls. It received a huge boost on Sunday after leading a successful referendum campaign against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s constitutional reforms, forcing him to resign.
Observers now expect parliamentary elections as early as next spring, with Mr di Maio likely to be nominated as Five Star Movement’s candidate for Prime Minister in an online poll. His party has called for a referendum on Italy’s continued membership of the European single currency.
Speaking to The Times, Mr di Maio said he favoured creating a second single currency for southern Europe, but “failing that, we could even go back to our old money.”
“I don’t know if the euro will fail in the coming years but I am saying that we are 25 per cent poorer than when we entered the euro,” he added.
The presidential election in France next year will be critical to the future of the currency, he added, while even in Germany Angela Merkel will be increasingly influenced by the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany party.
The fall of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is the latest example of the growing populist movement in the West after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
This showed, Mr di Maio said, the “loss of credibility of an entire political class”.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has yet to appoint a successor to Matteo Renzi, but some observers expect him to name a temporary technocratic government before calling new elections early next year, which Five Star Movement stands a good chance of winning.