The Brief: Renzi’s Roman roulette referendum

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Italians have the chance to give Matteo Renzi, their prime minister, a bloody nose in less than two weeks when he holds his reform referendum.

Renzi has committed that most unforgivable of follies. He has done a Cameron, or even a Crisp, and made it all about himself, rather than the issues at stake.

Basically, Renzi has painted a big target on his elite backside and said datemi un calcio [kick me].

Renzi is effectively asking voters to grant him a blank cheque on how senators are elected, marking them – astonishingly – with TBC (to be confirmed).

While Matteo has a Cameron-esque taste for Brussels-bashing, he isn’t about to “do-a-David”. Especially not in the 60th anniversary year of the Treaty of Rome.

But even if he wins, Renzi could still end up a loser in this game of Roman roulette. Just like he did on Italy’s version of Wheel of Fortune.

Italy’s constitution bans referendums on international treaties, which rules out a Brexit-style popular vote.

Renzi’s reforms will weaken the Senate and make it easier for further, future changes to the constitution. He’s opened a Pandora’s Box.

His new reforms, combined with recent electoral changes designed to stabilise Italy’s notoriously fragile political system, are meant to facilitate and empower a single party in government.

The party that wins the next election will be able to change the constitution if they scoop a two-thirds majority.

If that party is the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement, the second biggest political party in Italy, then the fox is truly in the henhouse.

And given 2016’s many political shocks, would anyone be surprised if that happened?

Renzi, if he manages to win the referendum in the first place, could lay the foundations for Italy’s eventual exit from the European Union.

And if he loses, and let’s not forget that Renzi never actually won a mandate from his voters to lead Italy, he’s promised to resign.

Referendums. Sure, they seem cool and fun. But they’re addictive, contagious and bad for your political health.


Jorge Valero has this profile of European Parliament President and former footballer Martin Schulz. A childhood friend said he had “low technical skills” on the pitch but made up for his lack of talent with physical presence.

There’s a lot of talk about which MEP could replace Schulz as Parliament president. Vote Watch Europe lined up the top EPP contenders’ voting records. French frontrunner Alain Lamassoure’s voting was most in line with the other parties in Parliament.

Another French heavyweight stepped into the ring today. Liberal Sylvie Goulard, a top dog in the Parliament’s economic affairs committee, announced she’ll also run.

The European Parliament has been led by a man 87% of the time since it started back in 1979 and Goulard is fed up with it.

Michel Barnier, the Commission’s Brexit negotiator, has been crisscrossing Europe to discuss details of the divorce with national leaders.

François Fillon, the leading conservative vying to become French president next year, said Russia needs to be anchored to Europe.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said around 300 people were arrested after a riot broke out yesterday in the country’s largest refugee camp, leaving two dozen police officers injured.

Green campaigners have complained that the Emissions Trading System is being manipulated to secretly fund fossil fuels. Sources said amendments are planned to ensure money can’t finance coal-powered electricity plants.

Here’s one brutal cartoon that’ll tell you all you need to know about the state of EU-Turkey relations.


The first Invest Week starts in Brussels on Monday. It is a series of events focusing on investment and boasts the likes of Commissioners Jyrki Katainen and Carlos Moedas in speaking slots. James Crisp will have escaped from the Sarlaac pit by Tuesday and will be back at the controls too.

All views are the author’s and not our sponsor’s.

This Brief is powered by EuroACE, the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, representing 280,000 employees and working together with EU institutions to help Europe move towards an efficient use of energy in buildings. Watch the highlights of Renovate Europe Day 2016


Subscribe to our newsletters