The Italian government has defied European Commission calls to revise its big spending budget plans.

Last month, in an unprecedented move, the EC rejected Italy's plan for a big increase in the deficit and described its growth forecast for 2019 as overly optimistic.

It had set yesterday as a deadline for Rome to respond to its objections.

Last night, co-deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said the government's deficit target of 2.4% and growth forecast of 1.5% will not be changed.

However, the leader of the League (formerly the Northern League) said asset sales would be beefed up and spending closely monitored.

Luigi Di Maio, the Deputy Prime Minister from the Five Star Movement coalition partner, said: "The budget will not change, neither in its balance sheet nor in its growth forecast. We have the conviction that this is the budget needed for the country to get going again."

The Italian governing coalition argues an increase in spending will kick-start growth.

The International Monetary Fund has said Italy's fiscal stimulus plans would leave the eurozone's third-biggest economy vulnerable to higher interest rates that could ultimately plunge it into recession.

The IMF said after an annual review of Italy's economic policies that any temporary, near-term growth gains from the stimulus is likely to be outweighed by the "substantial risk" of a rapid deterioration.

Last month, the ratings agency Moody's cut Italy's sovereign debt rating to one notch above junk status because of concerns over government budget plans.