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MNI EXCLUSIVE: Italy Stands Firm With Commission On Brexit

MNI (London)
--Solidarity Of EU Remains Key, Rome At The "Crossroads of EU/UK Relations"
By Silvia Marchetti
     ROME (MNI) - Italy stands "rock solid" with the rest of the European
Union's remaining members in pushing forward Brexit negotiations with
determination and that the EU's progress must continue, a government source
close to Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni told Market News Thursday.
     "There's a link between Brexit and the further development of the European
union. The UK's exit paradoxically stands as a window of opportunity to complete
the EU project, Italy is on the frontline and right now, even in the spotlight,"
said the official, a councillor on EU affairs.
     On Friday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May will speak in Florence on Brexit
scenarios. The speech is expected to be "soft" and seen as more of a "good-bye"
than a drastic "farewell".
     The source told MNI how Italy was taking a central stage in Brexit
negotiations, and not just "symbolically". On Thursday the EU's chief Brexit
negotiator Michel Barnier addressed Italy's parliament and met with premier
Gentiloni, again pushing forth the EU's "hard stance" position in finding a
solution out of the current negotiations stalemate.
     "It might be a coincidence that Barnier visits Italy just the day before
May does, but there's more to it than a simple accidental encounter between the
two," said the source, stressing how Italy was turning into the "cross-roads of
EU-UK relations" and how this was reinforcing Rome's position at EU level.
     "The fact that May chose Florence to deliver her speech is full of
meaning," as Florence is the cultural cradle of Italy and of humanist values of
peace and unity that are the founding principles of the Union, said the
official. "This makes us very happy and proud."
     But Rome's satisfaction will not waver in its hard stance. "Our government
shares the same position of the entire Union and of the European Commission: we
are in a critical phase, facing an impasse after the latest round of
negotiations with London's government was postponed. So we're all looking
forward to what May will say," said the official.
     Barnier's tour across EU capitals to highlight the negotiation phases is
finding allies everywhere, said the source, particularly in Rome, where the
government has officially endorsed the EC's position.
     The key speech recently given by Commission President Jean-Claude Junker on
the need at this delicate moment to boost European integration is also "Italy's
top priority", said the source.
     "It is crucial that all member states show determination and adopt a unique
hard stance. Ever since the UK's Brexit referendum vote, it has been made very
clear at EU and national levels that there is no space for compromises, which
would simply weaken the Union and we cannot afford this," the source added.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email:
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MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 |

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