Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Italian austerity moves welcomed

Silvio Berlusconi leaves the Quirinale Presidential Palace after meeting Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, in Rome (AP)

The approval of austerity measures by the Italian parliament - sparking the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi - has been hailed as a "welcome step" towards resolving the eurozone debt crisis by the Treasury.

Mr Berlusconi stepped down once the package was rushed through to make way for a technocratic interim administration as Rome seeks to ease away from the economic brink and calm volatile markets.

Although MPs had risen to applaud him as he left the chamber of deputies following the vote, his route to the presidential palace to tender his resignation was lined by hecklers rejoicing at his departure.

President Giorgio Napolitano will now consult with political parties in a bid to ensure sufficient support among divided parties to install former European commissioner Mario Monti as a coalition prime minister.

"As the Chancellor has said, the crisis in the eurozone is a danger to all economies, including ours," a spokeswoman for the Treasury said in response to the developments. "The parliamentary vote in Italy is a welcome step."

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned of difficulties for the UK as a direct result of the "big question mark" over the eurozone, declining to rule out a "double-dip" return to recession.

The Prime Minister is expected to travel to Berlin next week for face-to-face talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel who is under increasing pressure to approve European Central Bank intervention.

But he has come under renewed attack from Labour, shadow chancellor Ed Balls renewing accusations that ministers are using the crisis as a cover for failing to stimulate growth and jobs in the UK.

Labour is calling for tax breaks for small business, a temporary VAT cut and a bank bonus tax to fund jobs for young people as part of a five-point plan which it will next week send ministers around the country to promote.

The campaign will kick off on Wednesday when the Commons begins a short break - meaning Mr Cameron will not face his weekly question time session on the day the latest unemployment figures are released.

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