After Brexit, who could be next to bolt?

The EU’s handling of the immigration file has stoked resentment of the union across the continent

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Nigel Farage (front), the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts with supporters, following the result of the EU referendum, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain June 24, 2016. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

European Council President Donald Tusk’s warning was dire when he spoke to the German newspaper, Bild, a couple of weeks ago. “As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety.” Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, what will be the fate of the powerful alliance of 28 member states—and which nations could be the next to go?

Immediately following the shocking results of the Brexit referendum, right-wing, populist or anti-immigration political leaders and parties in Sweden, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Italy demanded a similar vote. A large proportion of that is likely mere noise that stands no real chance of gaining traction, but it’s certainly in the air.

Sweden and Denmark in particular are worth watching. Both countries were closely aligned with the U.K. on a host of policy issues, and they’re likely to feel they’ve now lost a powerful ally. The two Scandinavian countries have relatively robust political and economic systems, and may chafe at the idea of buoying up weaker southern European partners.

There has also been widespread angst in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands over their ability to absorb and integrate the high numbers of newcomers taken in during Europe’s refugee crisis. All three nations have seen the rise of right-wing, populist politics in response, mirroring the growth in popularity of the U.K. Independence Party that helped propel the “Leave” campaign to victory.

There are also acute fears that Greece, sagging under a tattered economy and an influx of migrants, will be kneecapped by the economic impact of Brexit within the EU, and also see its exports to the U.K. fall and tourists stay away as the pound takes a hit. The U.K.’s exit could also make the EU jittery and less inclined to compromise internally—something that could push Greece, as one of its most troubled members, out the door.

The specific concerns of those countries aside, a poll by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center of almost 10,500 people in 10 EU nations in April and May demonstrates deep veins of frustration running through member states and citizens. Most dissatisfied overall are Greece (just 27 per cent view the EU favourably), France (38 per cent), the U.K. (44 per cent) and Spain (47 per cent); the median across all countries polled was 51 per cent. In contrast, happiest with the EU are Poland (72 per cent favourable), Hungary (61 per cent) and Italy (58 per cent).

Refugees are the biggest sore point, with the overwhelming majority of citizens polled telling Pew they disapprove of the EU’s handling of that issue. Greece (94 per cent), Sweden (88 per cent) and Italy (77 per cent) are the most dissatisfied, but in reality, no one is happy on that front (the Netherlands, for instance, is the least disapproving—and even there, only 31 per cent approve of the way the refugee crisis is being handled).

Overall, 70 per cent of citizens thought the U.K.’s departure would be a bad thing for the EU. What remains to be seen is whether these percolating frustrations will be enough to push any other nations to follow suit, whatever the cost. “Every family knows that a divorce is traumatic for everyone,” Donald Tusk told Bild.


After Brexit, who could be next to bolt?

  1. My curiosity is focussed on the apparent absence of any comment regarding the ‘reason’ for Brexit from the point of view of the common British man and woman. Let me highlight that reason; Immigration … not the economy.

    Greece ought to be next … for strategic as well as economic reasons.

    • My curiosity is focussed on why you ask a question which you claim to have an answer for? Posturing?

      So tell us, wise person, why would the “common” person care about immigration – one of countless subjects he is clueless about?

      What has he been told about immigration,and by whom?

      • I’ll probably regret this as I have an aversion to engaging with half-wits, but I’ll humour you just this once. Suppose that you are correct; that every single Brit who voted for Brexit is clueless about immigration. Let’s go further, and assume they are clueless about everything.

        Now, said clueless person goes to the polling station and he has a choice. He can vote for A) The decisions about immigration and all these other things about which I am clueless will be made in Brussels by EU bureaucrats and a distant EU Parliament. Or B) The decisions about immigration and these other things about which I am clueless will be made here at home, in the UK, by a government that I and my fellow citizens elect.

        Now suppose a person is not clueless. Suppose a person is a learned, educated and cultured genius like yourself, who knows better than anyone else in the world (certainly better than the knuckle-draggers in the Macleans comments section) what policies should be pursued. You are faced with the same choice at the polls as the ignoramus. A) Decisions made in Brussels by Eurocrats. B) Decisions made at home by your own elected government.

        Now do you understand why a person might vote for Brexit? Or why a vote for Brexit does not necessarily make one clueless? Short of a puppet show, this is about as simple as I can make it for you. I’ll waste no further time trying to disabuse you of your own cognitive dissonance. You’re on your own.

  2. I know who the real winner of this is today, ISIS, just knowing the fact that terrorism drove the UK to the BREXIT leave side, and also knowing they had a stake in the leave side by driving FEAR through the people of the UK. It’s quit the propaganda tool for ISIS, knowing how easy it is to drive FEAR in the hearts and minds of the EU, great recruiting tool.

    • While the world is trying to keep the mid east together fighting ISIS, the world is falling apart.

      • Your world is falling apart. Mine just got a little brighter this morning.

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