The historic decision that the UK made on June 23rd has sent shockwaves through the entirety of European politics. While many prominent figures in the EU have condemned the decision, for obvious reason, there has also been a huge wave of support from all across Europe. Inspired by the bold action the UK took to reclaim its independence, populist parties from a multitude of nations have spoken up and demanded their own referendums on EU membership. Many politicians have also voiced their support for our decision to leave and see it as a positive step, not just for ourselves but for the whole of the EU.
In Austria there has been an undercurrent of euroscepticism for some time, and this has been further bolstered by the UK’s success in the referendum. A recent survey showed that as many as 40% of Austrians desired a referendum on EU membership.
“We need a referendum similar to the referendum in Great Britain, so the people of Austria can decide,” Robert Marschall, leader of Austria’s EU Exit Party, recently stated.
The head of Austria’s Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache congratulated Britain for voting for an exit saying “We congratulate the British for regaining their sovereignty. The result of their referendum yesterday is paving the way for democracy and against the political status quo, but also against the continuing migration madness,”.
The Freedom Party has called for a similar referendum for Austria. In the wake of the UK referendum Norbert Hofer, who almost became Austria’s Prime Minister last month, has said that we could see a referendum on a potential ‘Auxit’ in less than a year if the EU continues its current path towards centralization.
In the wake of our referendum the populist party Vlaams Belang have called for a referendum on Belgium’s EU membership. The Chair of Vlaams Belang, Tom van Grieken, has said that this could be ”the start of the Copernican revolution the EU needs to fill the democratic gap in its institutions”. Perhaps Brexit could inspire other nations who feel that the EU has become undemocratic.
In the Czech Republic there have been numerous calls for an EU referendum coming from various political parties including KSCM, the Party of Free Citizens and Dawn. In the wake of Brexit, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka joined calls recently from central and eastern Europe to rein in the powers of the EU’s executive Commission in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the bloc. “We need to change the overall functioning of the EU and I think it is needed to change the functioning of the European Commission,” Sobotka said.
Following the referendum the Danish People’s Party immediately congratulated the UK on their historic decision. They have on numerous occasions called for a referendum on Denmark’s EU membership, as have the Red-Green Alliance, and they are likely to demand it more strongly following last Thursday’s result. Leader of the DPP, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said Brussels had made its bed by underestimating the looming scepticism in Europe, and now the Danish people must be given a chance to follow Britain out of the EU. The DPP have said also that Danes should get a vote on the same deal that Britain brokers with the EU. Red-Green Alliance spokeswoman Pernille Skipper said she hoped the British people’s decision to leave would trigger a reform of the EU. She said: “I hope Danish politicians take [Brexit] as a wake-up call. There is enormous scepticism among the population. Let us now have a referendum here as well.”
There is significant desire for a referendum from the Danish electorate, a poll in June showed that 42 percent of Danes wanted a vote on whether their nation should remain in the EU. The poll also showed that only 44 percent would vote to remain if a referendum were held tomorrow.
Finland also has some rising eurosceptic sentiment. The Finns party would like a renegotiation of their EU membership and then a referendum. Sampo Terho, a veteran MEP who leads the Finns party in parliament said “During the next elections we need to have discussion about a possible EU referendum.”
There has been a variety of voices rising in support of Brexit from our neighbours across the channel. Probably the most famous political supporters of Brexit in western europe, the Front National, has called for a similar EU referendum to take place in France. Their leader Marine Le Pen said “Every EU member should be able to have its say in a referendum”. They have been joined in their calls for an EU referendum by the French Communist party. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, French MEP said “Brexit teaches a lesson to the whole of Europe – either we change it or we leave it. This is the time for a plan B.”. France is one of the most eurosceptic of all the EU members. A March poll by the University of Edinburgh found that 53 percent of the French are in favor of a referendum on leaving the Union. This feeling is likely to be further invigorated following the success of the UK’s referendum.
Public sentiment in Germany is generally very in favor of continued EU membership and even further integration, but even here there have been dissenting voices supporting our cause. Some prominent members of Alternative for Germany have suggested a EU referendum similar to the UK’s, however their party leadership said that they would have to consider it carefully.
Hungary is one of the few EU countries where the establishment as well as smaller populist movements have shown support for the Brexit vote. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has applauded Briton’s decision “that they will once again take control of their destiny”. In the wake of Thursday’s shock vote he also said that Europe had “failed” to answer questions over immigration.
In addition to these supportive comments from the leadership of Fidesz, another significant political party Jobbik have shown interest in having a referendum on Hungary’s continued EU membership. There is plenty of support for this among the population, a May poll by Ipsos Mori showed 38 percent of Hungarians are looking forward to a referendum on their EU membership.
Immediately following the vote on Thursday Matteo Salvini, Leader of the Northern League party congratulated the UK on voting to leave, and suggested Italy should follow suit. His party has seen a lot of support in recent elections and it seems that they are once again reading the mood of the Italian people. In recent polling 48 percent of Italians said that they would vote to leave the EU if they were presented with a referendum similar to the UK and a May poll by Ipsos Mori showed 58 percent of Italians are looking forward to a referendum on their EU membership.
In the Netherlands the Party for Freedom and their leader Geert Wilders have been vocal supporters of Brexit throughout the referendum campaign. The Party for Freedom has shown support for a Dutch referendum on EU membership and immigration policy. Party leader Geert Wilders has said that a referendum will be a central issue in the next election. Following the UK’s referendum success he said “Britain is once again leading the fight for democracy in Europe.”. A Poll carried out after the UK referendum showed that 54% of Dutch citizens are in favor of a similar referendum for their nation. Around 50% said they would vote to leave, with only 45% saying they would vote to remain.
Another supportive voice in northern Europe has been Mattias Karlsson who leads the Swedish Democrats in parliament, he said “With Brexit, I think the tide has turned. We can see that a larger proportion of the Swedish population are increasingly eurosceptic and in favour of leaving the European Union. In the end I think it will be very hard for the establishment to refuse these people a vote.”
It seems clear from all these reactions that our decision on the 23rd of June will have longlasting consequences for the entire EU. From all these positive voices there is good reason to believe that the UK will still have a valuable place in Europe following our Brexit. We might even act as leading example of how nations might reclaim their indpendence and work in close cooperation without giving over sovereignty or sacrificing their democracy.