Mario Draghi’s Brexit jibe to Britain about life outside EU: ‘Race to bottom on standards

ECB conference: Mario Draghi discusses policy stance

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The UK left the European trading bloc last year, decreasing the number of member states to 27. Mr Draghi was sworn in as Italy’s new Prime Minister in February this year as the UK was still grappling with life outside the EU. In the first few days of his premiership, the former President of the European Central Bank (ECB) promised a series of reforms to his country. He pledged to put all his efforts into tackling the COVID-19 crisis, which ravaged Italy in early 2020.

Mr Draghi also told lawmakers that backing his administration meant supporting the idea of an “increasingly integrated European Union”.

The Prime Minister’s backing of the EU can be traced back to his eight-year tenure as chief of the ECB, the 19-member currency bloc.

However, recently resurfaced comments from Mr Draghi’s time as ECB President show how he used his belief in the EU to take a swipe at Brexit Britain.

In a 2019 speech at the University of Bologna, Mr Draghi suggested that EU member states leaving the bloc were giving up their sovereignty.

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He claimed the EU’s purpose was “to ensure that globalisation is not a race to the bottom on standards”.

He said: “The EU… allows countries to achieve goals that they could not realise alone. And the EU is able in turn to export some of its standards globally.

“Co-operating at an EU level increases their potential to do so.”

As well as the UK, Mr Draghi’s comments were likely targeted at Italy’s anti-EU coalition of the Five Star Movement and the League.

The political parties came to power in 2018 and were the largest bloc in the Italian Parliament.

However, both parties eventually threw their weight behind Mr Draghi after he was asked to form a unity government earlier this year.

Mr Draghi also opened up about his views on Brexit as he prepared to step down from his role as ECB chief in late 2019, other unearthed comments show.

Speaking in Frankfurt after his last ECB policy meeting, he warned that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU may inflict damage on the eurozone.

He said: “The incoming data since the last governing council meeting in early September confirm our previous assessment of a protracted weakness in the euro area growth dynamics, the persistence of prominent downside risk and muted inflation pressures.

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“The main risk from all viewpoints, but especially also from a financial stability viewpoint, is a downturn in the economy… whether it is global or it is eurozone.”

Since coming to power the Prime Minister has echoed the post-Brexit rhetoric towards Britain expressed by his fellow EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

At this summer’s G7 summit in Cornwall Mr Draghi waded into the ongoing disagreements between Britain and the EU.

The bloc has accused Britain of not keeping up its side of the agreements, including on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Britain has complained that Brussels has been seeking to enforce the Protocol, which governs its post-Brexit trade with Northern Ireland, too strictly.

In a similar tone to Mr Macron, Mr Draghi told a G7 press conference that “agreements are agreements and must be kept”.

He added: “There is no impression that there is a great collaboration, but it is a very difficult thing for the United Kingdom as well, as they say, it is about the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
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