Brexit offers a glimpse of the frustration that many Europeans feel with politicians and the EU. Nationalism and populism are on the rise — again — around the continent.

nationalism
Supporters of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement celebrating the election of Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, 20 June 2016. (EPA/Alessandro di Meo)
This is the first of two stories on the rise of nationalism in Europe.

By Giulia Morpurgo

Europe’s debt and refugee crises have exposed fault lines in the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Was it utopian to think that Slovenia, Estonia or Latvia could sustain the same currency as Germany, the world’s fourth biggest economy? Why has it been so hard for the European Union to cope with thousands of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa?

Europeans feel frustrated by the reactions of mainstream parties and political institutions to these emergencies. They are demanding shifts in the distribution of power and new reforms.

The wind of change sweeping across Europe is no mild breeze but a potential cyclone leading EU member states in the direction of nationalism and populism.

Brexit has given hope to separatists in Catalonia.

In Spain, the newest entry is Podemos, a populist left-wing party founded two years ago and led by Pablo Iglesias. It is against austerity and favors an expansion of welfare services and a national basic income.

Podemos is challenging the economic establishment, represented by multinationals accused of evading taxes. Although not inherently Eurosceptic, it disagrees with most measures adopted by Brussels and thinks the EU’s notion of sovereignty should be amended.

In 2015 elections, just one year after its founding, Podemos emerged as the third largest party in Spain, behind the center-right People’s Party (PP) and the Socialists. After British voters chose to leave the EU in June, Podemos had high expectations in Spanish elections held two days after the British referendum.

But the party obtained only 21 percent of the vote, finishing third behind the PP and the Socialists, and failing to topple Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Another source of tension in Spanish politics is rooted in the Catalan separatist movement. In 2015, parliamentary elections in Catalonia were considered an unofficial independence referendum.

The separatists won, and in November the parliament in Barcelona adopted a resolution declaring the start of the process of independence.

Will Brexit encourage both Scots and Catalans to seek independence and to join the EU? Wary of providing Catalan separatists any grist for their movement, Rajoy made his view crystal clear to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon before the Brexit vote: “If the UK leaves Europe so does Scotland.”

Italy’s Five Star movement has captured city halls in major cities.

Podemos has some elements in common with Italy’s Five Star Movement, founded in 2009 by comedian Beppe Grillo and entrepreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio.

Five Star’s manifesto says it is a “free association of citizens” rather than a party. It rejects traditional right and left wing ideologies, offering new “ideas” and promising to grant sovereignty directly to the people.

In general elections in 2013, Five Star became the second largest party in parliament, and its lawmaker Luigi di Maio, 26, was elected the youngest vice president of the lower house of parliament in Italian history.

In June 2016, Virginia Raggi of the Five Star movement was elected mayor of Rome in the wake of a series of corruption scandals, known as Mafia Capitale, that tarnished all mainstream political parties.

In Turin, Five Star candidate Chiara Appendino defeated incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a political kingpin and one of the founders of the Democratic Party to which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi belongs.

Di Maio is considered to be one of the strongest contenders for prime minister in the next general election. If the Renzi government completes a full term, elections would not be held before 2018. However, it all depends on the next test of Renzi’s leadership — a referendum in October 2016 when Italians will vote on constitutional reforms put forward by the establishment.

Terrorist attacks in Paris have boosted the right-wing National Front.

In France, the last five years have seen a resurgence of the far-right Front National, founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen.

His daughter Marine has softened the Front’s tone, making its program more palatable to mainstream voters. Still, the party opposes immigration, gay marriage and parenting and the European Union. Following the vote for Brexit, its website homepage called for a “Frexit”.

The first big electoral victory for the Front National came in 2014 when it won 24 of France’s 72 seats in the European Parliament, more than any other French party.

In next year’s 2017 presidential elections, the Front National seems poised to perform well. It will be facing a weakened Left, whose leader, President François Hollande, has been hobbled by very low popularity ratings. The centre-right is split between former President Nicholas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux.

After the two terrorist attacks in Paris in January and November of last year, Marine Le Pen’s party scored well in the first round of regional elections in late 2015, only to lose to a united left-right front in the run-off round. According to recent surveys of French youth aged 18 to 25, between 27 and 31 percent said they would vote for her in the first round.

Immigration was key to the Brexit vote.

The UK Independence Party was founded in the early 1990s with the sole aim of taking Britain out of the European Union.

According to the party’s 2010 manifesto, the EU has deprived the country of “freedom of action, freedom of resources and freedom of the people” by transferring decision-making to Brussels. Before the referendum, it urged people to vote against “a political establishment that wants to keep us enslaved in the Euro project.”

A strong opponent of immigration, the UKIP sought the support of the British working class, fed up with traditional politics and desperate economic conditions, by telling them that the Labour Party had betrayed working people by allowing the free movement of people in and out of the country.

In the 2014 European elections, UKIP won 28 percent of the vote. After Brexit, its founder and leader, Nigel Farage, seemed set to help shape British politics until his surprise resignation on July 4.

Farage’s attitude had already alienated many voters. Especially galling to some was the fact that after Brexit, he quickly admitted that one of the Leave camp’s main referendum campaign promises — that the National Health Service would receive some 350 million pounds per week after Brexit from savings in payments to Brussels — was a mirage.

Uncertainty and alienation

Brexit also comes as a boost to the Dutch extremist right-wing Partij voor de Vrijheid (Freedom Party), founded in 2006. Currently Geert Wilders, the PVV believes the Netherlands should leave the EU. When the Brexit results came out, Geert Wilders tweeted “Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn.”

Strongly nationalist, the PVV has suggested a “record of ethnicity” for all people with Dutch nationality. It is radically anti-Muslim.

In 2010, the PVV won 24 of the 150 seats in the lower house, making it the third largest party in parliament. Its representation shrank to 15 seats in elections held in September 2012, but one opinion poll in January this year projected that it could win up to 41 seats in a general election due to be held by March 2017.

Here’s the bottom line: Europe’s political landscape is full of uncertainty. But we can be sure of one thing: many voters feel alienated from both the EU and their nation’s politics.

The unanswered question is whether other EU states will follow Britain’s lead and choose national sovereignty over the chance to make a difference inside a reformed, stronger Union.


Giulia Morpurgo is a second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London, studying Political Economy. She is passionate about ancient history, European literature and travel. She would like to become a journalist focusing on either economics or current affairs, communicating stories that would otherwise remain unknown.

One comment

Nationalism rears its head again in Europe

  1. BREXIT FROM AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE
    One thing we must appreciate about the BRITISH is that they give an opportunity to their countrymen to decide on their FUTURE. BRITAIN had the GUTS to say once again, in one voice… NO… NO…. NO….
    If Britain had REMAINED in the EU, the most benefitted would have been the FREE FLOW of FRAUDSTERS, ECONOMIC MIGRANTS AND CRIMINALS. In fact every EU country should opt for a REFERENDUM and vote to go INDEPENDENT, at the same time, WRITE-OFF the TAXATION between countries for Trade and Commerce, the amount of money collected via Taxation over trade is in fact lost by way of the losses made due to the damages done by the alien migrants coming from alien cultures.
    Great Britain has historical relationships with a third of the countries of the Planet Earth, and as Prime Minister Cameroon once said to an American Television Show, sometimes Very Good Relations, and sometimes Not So Very Good Relations. A lot many of these countries still carry a great deal of animosity against the present day British, who have nothing to do with, or know about any past historical errors of the country. Having Said that, it is also true that, these former colonies don’t understand that, this happened 200 – 300 years back and the mind-set of the people of Britain was 200 – 300 years back-dated and of that era. At the same time, however, the mind-set of the present day rulers and or the people, of the countries colonized by the British Empire, is worse than what is being projected or taught to the countrymen of the former colonies. Britain is indeed A Great Country, that Gifted the world THE MAGNA-CARTA, and numerous – Industrial, Medical, Scientific, Technological contributions to the world. The Legacy left behind by the British Empire will Forever be Nostalgic, to the Freedom, Equality and Democracy loving people of the Planet Earth. UK is right in getting out of the EU and start doing business with the rest of the World, the world speaks in English and English Customs, Etiquettes, English Manners etc. which is acknowledged with great privilege. Its not due to anything that we Indians have against the EU, but the problem is that, we cannot use the same Yard-stick when dealing with the other EU member countrymen. The Western Europeans may have a great deal of similarities to the British, but the Eastern Europeans have not got the Democratic Maturity that the Western Europeans have. Now the situation has gone even worse, due to the Refugees that have swarmed into Western Europe. Culturally, Europe has leaped backwards by more than a thousand odd year.
    On Tariffs and Taxes, why should there be any tax at all between such a small cluster of countries in a continent which is so much land-locked. The money EU is saving on TAXES for being a FREE-TRADE-ZONE, is lost in the form of Liabilities on the Influx of Refugees and ‘Civilizing them up’, much less to talk about the vandalism these refugees get into, for they are not from Disciplined Societies, rather coming from Autocratic societies, and would be as Autocratic as can be, if given an opportunity.
    The reason Scotts Voted to REMAIN in the EU, was because they just wanted to do anything to oppose the English, to avenge the loss of the first Scottish referendum. The allegation of Fear Mongering is actually done by the Non-whites and/or Eastern Europeans. Until the Referendum, most of the Non-whites were taking the cover of lack of Englishness among the Eastern Europeans. If the UK gets rid of EU, the Non-whites fear that there wont be anyone left to blame, once the Eastern Europeans lose their rights in the UK.
    The 48% who voted against the LEAVE CAMPAIGN were Eastern Europeans, Asians, Blacks and refugees, and ofcourse those young mislead and carefree whites, who would not like to work, and rather like to just live on Govt grants and Unemployment benefits. I don’t think migrants have much of a love towards the UK, nor do they realize the historical relationship, if at all they have any, they don’t value it, much less to talk about any allegiance to the Queen of England, they are there as economic migrants and are not having any loyalty to the host country ie. UK. Only the first generation migrants live in a disciplined manner, the next generation onwards they start the tantrums of the Country of Origin. The migrants are there only to keep looking for better and better deals to jump from one place to another. Opening up the Borders to EU means that, they will be able to disappear into the European crowd, taking advantage of the Broad-minded, Benevolent and Tolerance of the British people.
    None of the citizens of the EU Members can speak proper English, much less having any historical relationship to reconnect with. If UK remains in the EU, then due to the vast INFLOW OF REFUGEES and EU Resident/Passport holders, UK will Lose the very ENGLISH LANGUAGE itself, which happens to be the INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS LANGUAGE. Also note that, TWO OUT OF THREE Individuals in the UK would be from a EU Country, speaking broken English, thereby turning UK into a CONFUSED COUNTRY like India, which is still struggling and fighting to SPEAK in a COMMON LANGUAGE, after 70 years of independence.
    In the last 40 years or so, British people had been abandoned by their govts. Due to which a lot of them left the shores and married people from the far east viz. Philipines, Indonesia etc. These were the countries, that were not even worth looking at, during the best times of the Empire. The desperate and innocent British men started getting married to just about any cleaner girl from the Philipines, as these men were sort of orphaned by the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the Indian masses were always educated to hate the British and not too much of a marriage relationship occurred between the Indians and the British for us to have a blood-relationship sort of an attachment towards the United Kingdom, thanks to the Pak dominated cinema industry of India, who took advantage of the Indian dislike towards the British.
    Asia and Africa are the two continents that are going to be the SHINING PERFORMERS of 21st century. The new Trading partners would definitely be the vast majority of English speaking population of the world in Asia and Africa. Indians need not be worried about Immigration opportunities to the UK, once UK comes with the Point-system like it is in Australia and NZ, the no. of immigrants will be a people with whom Britain had once Trade and Commercial relations with.
    I dont think EU has much to offer Britain, other than a free passage under the cover of being EU residents/passport holders. Besides most of the EU countries are erstwhile Iron Curtain countries. It was only the Rulers of the Communist countries who were tried and put out of power, but those who supported these tyrants escaped punishment and got mixed up with the general population. These individuals carry the same autocratic mind-set and would join the band-wagon along with the vast no. of refugees etc. that are swarming into EU and making their way into the UK. These refugees will live on hand-outs first, and once they have established themselves in the UK, will get rid of those in the UK who have been living there for generations.
    To those who regret voting to LEAVE the EU, the fact remains that the Young innocent white Englishmen, are completely careless and have taken the world for granted, with respect to visa formalities. They simply dont know the process and procedures of Visas and such formalities that take time. These White Englishmen also dont realize that the people who come into the UK are not just Tourists, but Terrorists as well, disguised as Tourists, besides those, who come with FAKE DEGREES, or FRADULENTLY acquired Degrees by cheating and copying in the Exams or just buying their Degrees from the nearby Grocery of their Universities, from Asia etc., thereby making the migrants more entitled to secure a job over the local Englishmen. Much less to mention the standard of education and human life values the migrants (both first generation and beyond), give to fellow humans, and claim to be more qualified than the people of the UK, who have formed the country with hard work to attain, Freedom, Equality and Democracy, after struggling with the Establishment. Whereas, these migrants have come to destroy the foundation at which a Free and Democratic country like UK is formed, exploit the country for their selfish motives and destructive revengeful mentality. The UKIP has taken the initiative and responsibly taken ownership of the country from falling into the hands of such individuals, Belgium, certain parts of France, now Germany etc. are the victims of this SWARM of REFUGEES, these two countries are now kind of held hostage of their consciousness. The only way to keep a Tab on the Migrants and Refugees is by closing the borders, thereby screening and tracking such individuals becomes a lot more easier than having a BORDERLESS EUROPE. There is no point of regretting later, once the country has been completely dominated by those who dont want to share the world with others.
    The decision to Vote to LEAVE was the RIGHT ONE.

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