But will Mr Salvini and Mr Berlusconi send Italy crashing out of the EU?
Italy will go to the polls on March 4 and opinion polls yesterday put the centre-right coalition on target for a win but falling just short of an outright majority.
Anti-establishment party Five Star Movement (5S) led the popular vote on February 1 with a 26.9 percent share and 3.1 lead but it has see-sawed over entering into a coalition.
Renato Brunetta, leader of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), said today he would “not even sit down to talk” with 5S about policy.
He said: “They are insulting, destructive, violent and anti-political.”
Mr Berlusconi, 81, might be barred from holding public office following a tax scandal, but his coalition stands the strongest chance of winning as the largest party – and immigration is proving a hot potato following a big increase in illegal immigrants arriving from the North African coast.
Eurosceptic Mr Salvini, who has hopes of being the next prime minister, has pursued a strong anti-EU rhetoric, calling the Euro a “failed experiment” in recent days.
He said he wanted “fewer constraints from Europe, no to austerity policies, revision of the European treaties and prevalence of the Italian Constitution over the Community law”.
Lega Nord (Northern League) is “willing to do anything to defend national interest” – including going against the EU’s deficit-and-GDP rule, Mr Salvini said.
Will Salvini and Berlusconi send Italy crashing out of the EU
A leading academic says if the centre-right coalition wins and Mr Salvini takes office with the backing of Mr Berlusconi’s FI, Italy won’t make any plans to leave the EU in the short term.
Dr Nicola Chelotti, lecturer in Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University said: “Italian euroscepticism has yet to be really tested” and issues such as African immigration “is only in part related to EU policies.
Dr Chelotti said: “This is a huge decision, and other actors will need to be involved (the Parliament, and probably the electorate, in a referendum).”
The academic added even if 5S party joined the coalition, that wouldn’t be enough to effect change as MP votes may still lag below 50 percent.
Dr Chelotti said Mr Salvini and the 5 Star Movement might want to call for a referendum.
He said: “The referendum might be against the common currency (euro) and not against the EU per se (this has been the claim often made by the 5 Star Movement).
“Although at a certain point getting out of the Eurozone might lead to leaving the EU, this is far from obvious at the moment.”
The academic added many Italians benefited from the freedom of movement that the EU allows and Italian Eurosceptism, while on the rise, was “probably not as deep-seated as the British one”.