Italy is the only European country where Brexit is viewed with some sympathy and the British are not assumed to be off their heads. It is an odd state of affairs. The country benefited spectacularly from the EU. It transformed itself in a few years from a society of peasants and small craftsmen into an advanced, export-oriented economy based on engineering, cars, pharmaceuticals and consumer electrics, with an impressive standard of living.
The Italians were insulted when Boris Johnson, then masquerading as a diplomat, cited prosecco as their emblematic export. Italy’s fatal mistake was to adopt the euro for reasons of prestige. It lumbered them with an artificially high implicit exchange rate, depressed growth and real earnings, and pushed them into a permanent recession. It is a warning of the danger of embarking on economic projects for political reasons. These days, you don’t hear much from knowledgeable Italians about the opportunities offered by Europe.
This article is an extract from Jonathan Sumption's Spectator diary, available in this week's magazine.