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Italian PM denies rift between governing parties over budget

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Italian PM denies rift between governing parties over budget
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrives at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw   -   Copyright  PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW(Reuters)
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday denied any division between the two parties in his governing coalition, the League and the 5-Star Movement, amid reports of a spat over tax revenues in next year’s budget.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star, said on Wednesday a legislative text on a partial tax amnesty had been manipulated before its final approval. He did not clarify who could have amended the document.

The tax amnesty is one of the revenue measures included in Italy’s draft budget for next year.

Asked by reporters about a possible rift between the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star on the issue, Conte – who is not from any political party – replied: “There is no division”.

In a bid to fulfil election spending pledges, Italy’s eurosceptic government plans to boost welfare spending, cut the retirement age and hike the country’s deficit, upsetting the European Commission.

“I’m aware this is not the budget the Commission expected. I expect critical observations. We will discuss and we will reply to these considerations,” Conte told reporters on arriving for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.

He also described the Italian draft budget as “beautiful”.

The EU Commission is currently reviewing Rome’s budgetary plans and can formally raise concerns about it until next Monday.

If it does so, it can then decide to send the budget back to Rome for changes by Oct. 29, in what would be an unprecedented move.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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