The Fix Is Already In, as Italy’s Moment of Truth Beckons

Italy holds a constitutional referendum on Sunday. Europe is sick and tired of national referendums, in the opinion of Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. Over the past week, Juncker has urged EU leadersnot to hold more referendums as he fears that other European electorates may take a leaf out of the UK’s book and vote to leave:

“Regarding referenda on EU membership, I think it is not wise to organize this kind of debate, not only because I might be concerned about the final result but because this will pile more controversy onto the huge number already present at the heart of the EU.”

It’s not hard to understand Juncker’s distaste for referenda: the EU has been on the losing end of just about every popular vote of this fledgling century. Whenever people in Europe have been given the rare opportunity to vote on Brussels-related business, they invariably vote against Brussels. In fact, the only vote the EU has won this century was in Ireland in 2009, and that was only after the people had first voted against the Treaty of Lisbon. It was the wrong answer and voters were politely invited to reconsider. Or else.

Next up for the EU establishment is Italy’s constitutional referendum on Sunday. It is the banking crisis that has Brussels most worried. As Italy’s finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan admitted on Thursday, if the vote goes against Renzi, the resultant political uncertainty would make it even more difficult to raise capital, putting at risk as many as eight mid-sized financial institutions, all of which are already at or beyond the brink of solvency…

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