World Europe 24 Jun 2016 Domino effect? Brexi ...

Domino effect? Brexit, Nrexit, Frexit... EU far-right leaders want referendum

REUTERS
Published Jun 24, 2016, 2:42 pm IST
Updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:04 pm IST
Dutch and French anti-immigration leaders hope to boost the eurosceptic agenda at home.
Dutch voters have twice voiced strong anti-EU sentiment at the polls, most recently in April when a vast majority rejected the Ukraine-EU treaty in a nonbinding referendum. (Photo: AP)
 Dutch voters have twice voiced strong anti-EU sentiment at the polls, most recently in April when a vast majority rejected the Ukraine-EU treaty in a nonbinding referendum. (Photo: AP)

Amsterdam: Following Britain’s exit from the European Union, anti-immigration parties and far-right political outfits in France and the Netherlands have called for a referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU.

Dutch anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders on Friday called for a referendum on the Netherlands' membership in the European Union after Britain voted to leave the 28-member bloc.

 

Wilders, who is leading opinion polls, said if he is elected prime minister in March general elections in the Netherlands he too will call a referendum. “We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy," he said in a statement.

Read: Czech leader says Brexit won't be end of European Union

"As quickly as possible the Dutch need to get the opportunity to have their say about Dutch membership of the European Union."

A survey by a television channel Een Vandaag this week found that 54 percent of the people in the Netherlands, a founding EU member, want a referendum.

 

Dutch voters have twice voiced strong anti-EU sentiment at the polls, most recently in April when a vast majority rejected the Ukraine-EU treaty in a nonbinding referendum. "It is time for a new start, relying on our own strength and sovereignty. Also in the Netherlands," Wilders said.

"If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide.”

Read: Angela Merkel warns EU against kneejerk reaction to Brexit

Meanwhile, France's far right National Front party called for a French referendum on European Union membership, cheering a Brexit vote, hoping it can boost its eurosceptic agenda at home.

 

The anti-immigrant, anti-euro FN, was the only major French political party to call for Britons to vote to leave the EU.

"Victory for freedom!" said FN chief Marine Le Pen, who displayed the British flag on her Twitter page. "We now need to hold the same referendum in France and in (other) EU countries."

Her deputy Florian Philippot said it was now France's turn to vote to leave the EU. "The liberty of peoples always wins in the end! Bravo to the United Kingdom," he wrote on Twitter. "Our turn now #Brexit #Frexit."

 

Since taking over from her father as FN leader, Jean-Marie, in 2011, Marine Le Pen has reworked the image of the FN to make it more mainstream. The party has done better, election after election - in the first round.

Le Pen, who is a member of the European Parliament, is also positioning herself to run for president of France in elections next year. But it still loses in run-offs, and now controls less than a dozen small and medium-size municipalities.

Read: Britain votes to leave EU in historic divorce unleashing global turmoil

 

Analysts, but also a few FN top officials and allies have said its protectionist, anti-euro policy, was partly to blame for this by putting off key older voters.

Britain's "Leave" vote can go a long way to help it overcome this, Ifop pollster's analyst Frederic Dabi said.

"It's good news for Le Pen because the European issue was one of the key drags on FN voting," Dabi said.

"Older voters, executives, feared a leap in the unknown because of its anti-EU stance. But the UK is setting a precedent. If it goes well there, it will make the FN's stance look much more mainstream."

 

Usually omnipresent in French media, Le Pen had become largely silent over the past few months after suffering a huge disappointment in regional elections in December. The Brexit vote could well throw her back on the front scene.

Le Pen had said last month that if she won next year's French presidential election she would immediately start negotiations with Brussels on a series of sovereignty issues including the single currency. If those failed, she would ask voters to back leaving the EU in a referendum, she said.

If elected next year, Le Pen has declared she would become "Madame Frexit" and call a referendum on France's EU membership within six months.

 

"France has possibly a thousand more reasons to want to leave the EU than the English," Le Pen told a gathering of far-right parties in Vienna last Friday.

A study by the Pew Research Center in Washington released two weeks ago showed that French voters were the second most eurosceptic in the bloc, behind Greece.

The poll showed 61 percent of French voters had an unfavourable view of the EU, compared to only 48 percent in the UK.

The eurosceptic, anti-immigration FN says the EU is suffering from a "democratic deficit" and has long urged all bloc members to follow Britain's example.

 

Le Pen has accused the EU of pursuing closer integration "against our will".

She says the union is responsible for high eurozone unemployment and has failed to keep out "smugglers, terrorists (and) economic migrants."

The Brexit vote has fired up eurosceptic populists across the bloc, with Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders also calling for an EU referendum in his own country.

There are growing fears that the British vote to leave could trigger a domino effect across the continent.

Le Pen is the front-runner among likely candidates ahead of the 2017 presidential vote. However polls see her losing the run-off.

 

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