THE BIG PICTURE: THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF EUROPE
BREXIT: A victory for the Far Right
A United Kingdom EU passport sits on a European Union flag.. | ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES
“This is a very dangerous moments for Europe.”
The dis-integration of Britain from Europe, was the question put to the British people in a referendum in 2016.
In the week before the referendum was to take place, a pro-EU British MP, Jo Cox, was murdered by a man later confirmed to be a white supremacist.
During the fatal knife and gun attack he was heard to be shouting: “Britain first, this is for Britain”.
“The perpetrator of the attack argues that the white race is quickly becoming extinct. This is a common idea that runs through the European far right.”
“But very soon, we forget about the fact that Britain has experienced what seems to be a far right political assassination of a member of parliament, and it speaks to … the kind of acceptability of a certain kind of far right set of politics now in British political life.”
Flowers surround a picture of Jo Cox during a vigil in Parliament Square on June 16, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. | PHOTO BY DAN KITWOOD/GETTY IMAGES
Britain would vote to leave the European Union, proving, for some, the acceptability of that certain kind of politics.
“Not everyone who voted Leave was a racist or an Islamophobe or a xenophobe but the discourse of that movement was … clearly mobilising around Islamophobia and around xenophobia and racism.”
“Brexit was the first significant victory in foreign policy for the radical right. So far the far right has not really been seen as a major player in foreign policy and so this is huge and it clearly has inspired Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and others.”
Britain’s exit from the EU was aided by a populist, anti-establishment xenophobia now coursing through the continent.
2016 saw Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats beaten into third place by the far right AfD in local elections, while Germany endured a year of violent attacks that spotlighted its refugee policy.
European Right-Wing parties hold conference in Koblenz. | PHOTO BY THOMAS LOHNES/GETTY IMAGES
In the same year, France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen made significant gains in presidential election polls; Austria came close to electing a far right head of state and Italy rejected constitutional reforms for not being radical enough, prompting the resignation of its centrist leader.
The project to unite Europe that began in the wake of a devastating war, was now being challenged by populist stirrings in the nations it sought to bring together.
“The one thing that we do know over the past hundred-and-so years of European history is political projects, political parties have come and gone, but nationalism has remained stubbornly persistent.”
“The European project in itself was pushed through by the parties both on the left and on the right across Western Europe specifically, and these parties are now paying the price by seeing challenges to their leadership arise on the right and also on the left. What we’re really seeing in Europe today is a thinning out of the centre where the extremist … flanks on both sides are gaining, and the centre both left and right almost find themselves … with their pants down.”
“I don’t know if Marine le Pen will succeed in winning the next presidential election, but if we don’t change this political situation in France, one day, she will succeed in it, yes.”
“This is very dangerous moments for Europe. We see important elections coming in Germany and in France in the wake of Brexit. We see the rise of so-called populist movements, not just across Europe but in the US and elsewhere. And the danger, it seems to me at the moment, is retreating into our own little backyards and forgetting precisely what it was that demanded the integration of Europe in the first place. The catastrophe of World War II was what brought about the integration of Europe and it was an imperfect process but if it’s abandoned altogether, then what will the consequences of that be?”
A sympathizer wears a cap in the colors black, red, yellow and a button that says German Chancellor Angela Merkel "must go", as right-wing activists gather in front of Hauptbahnhof main railway station before marching through the city center on November 5, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. | PHOTO BY CARSTEN KOALL/GETTY IMAGES
“What we see instead is that mainstream parties are becoming more open to the ideas and the policies that the radical right are proposing.”
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Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera English
The rise of far-right and right-wing populist parties
A UKIP campaign placard sits on a table as UKIP leader Nigel Farage addresses a public meeting. | PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES
The prominence and prevalence of the far-right in Europe over the past few years.
SWISS PEOPLE'S PARTY
PARTY FOR FREEDOM
DANISH PEOPLE'S PARTY
JOBBIK / FIDESZ-KDNP
ALTERNATIVE FUER DEUTSCHLAND
GOLDEN DAWN / INDEPENDENT GREEKS
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'The Making and Breaking of Europe'