Is Brexit a playbook for the others?

Nigel Farage said about Brexit: I hope this brings down the European project. Do you think the eurosceptic movements in Europe will learn something out of Brexit, can they copy something from the campaign and how should the pro-EU camp react? Read few comments.

Reinhard Heinisch, Professor of Austrian Politics in Comparative European Perspective, Department of Political Science, Chair, University of Salzburg

Of course I do think that this will provide impetus and momentum for the EU opponents but only if the economic consequences for Britain remain minor. If the pound remains low, the economy in the UK sours and business move away then this may tamper those sentiments. I am not surprised that Farage want to bring down Europe because he knows that a powerful EU would pose a permanent economic challenge to the UK – it would either have to negotiate with the EU to stay in the single market which means keeping all the rules but have no say about the rules. The UK also faces a Scottish referendum (and perhaps one in Northern Ireland or conflict) as long a majority of the people there wants to join Europe. So for all those reasons, Europe cannot be allowed to continue and prosper because it would be a permanent remainder of the negative consequences of Brexit. Moreover, if the overpromises of all the great things that will now happen won’t materialize and there is no longer an EU to blame (given all the base-less propaganda of the Brexit camp) then too, it would be better if the EU is no longer around.

For the Irish, the Netherlands, Danes and others closely connected to the UK economy, this is a huge problem and they will certain push for treating the UK more generously, others will want the opposite just to prevent member states from following the British model, so there is the prospect of further conflict.

The eurosceptic parties will learn how to orchestrate such campaigns by appealing to emotion, ignorance of facts, short-term sentiments while promising that everything will be better once “national control and sovereigns is restored” as if globalization, technological change, and the emergence of huge new powers in other parts of the world could be wished away.

Diāna PotjomkinaResearch Fellow, Latvian Institute of International Affairs

Brexit may serve and indeed will likely serve as an added motivation to other eurosceptic movements around Europe, because now they will have a precedent and will be able to research tactics, strategies, invite over successful UK leaders to help in their campaign, and the like. At the same time, we will have to see whether voters in other member states will follow suit. First, the UK is a somewhat distinct case because of its history, geographic location, including the very strong partnership with the US, and other factors. It has always been reluctant to completely integrate into all the EU structures. Second, we already see the first consequences of the Brexit vote: how it reverberates on the market. Euroscepticism often builds on support from lower-income citizens, but if they see that such votes can negatively impact their well-being, they may become more cautious. However, we cannot exclude that more sophisticated techniques of blackmailing the EU will be developed instead of such “remain/leave” votes. The pro-EU camp needs to step up its communication and dialogue with citizens. This has long been an issue for the EU, and it must be addressed. And since the eurosceptics are against the EU institutions, this communication should come not only or primarily from Brussels but from other channels, even if the EU provides its support. We must also work better on everything we do in the EU.

Cas MuddeAssistant Professor, Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia

I think many anti-EU parties are going to pressure for similar referendums in their own country — think most notably about Denmark, France, Netherlands, and Sweden — but it is doubtful they can win. After all, even in the deeply Eurosceptic UK the majority was small.

Simon Lightfoot, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, University of Leeds

My sense is that the European project will continue. It might be that we see increasing cooperation amongst a core group of states especially the eurozone states. merkel did discuss reforms of the EU in a speech recently to coincide with 60 years since the treaty of rome. I doubt the campaigns can learn much from the brexit campaign-the messages are pretty similar and reinforced constantly. the refrain of ‘we want our country back’ is evident in France, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Hungary etc. The trigger issues might be slightly different (migration, islamification etc) but they are aimed at a similar demographic. I think the key difference is whether another state could work outside the EU given the connected borders. As an island, non schengen state it is slightly easier for the UK (although Northern Ireland is an issue). We have also seen the left pushing an anti eu message but more in a sense of reform not reject (Greece, Spain) The Pro EU camp must not just dismiss the people as wrong. It must try and find a way to connect and to look beyond austerity as the default model. The austerity hits people who tend to have been economically disadvantaged by neo-liberalism, globalisation and Brussels acts as a proxy for all these ills plus the sense that certain groups are immune from the austerity (bankers cause the crash yet ordinary people pick up the bill).

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Post-Doctoral Researcher Scuola Normale Superior

As always, the European establishment points its finger on the ”populists” but the real responsible in this case are mainstream parties. UK internal politics set up the Conservative  party to allow for the referendum, as an extreme remedy against the challenge of UKIP and as a way to defeat the Labour in national elections. And this was after years that the conservative party flirted with eurosceptic ideas. Now they pay the price of this suicidal political strategy.

Eurosceptic parties will learn a lot from the Brexit in the sense that they now have leverage to ask for referendums on exiting the EU, but the rest of the political system (hopefully) has learnt the lesson that the consequences of this type of consultations are much more risky than one could legitimately forecast.

Personally, what frightens me the most is that not even the cruel homicide of Jo Cox took away momentum to the Brexit campaign, which means that Brexit supporters took into account the consequences of their choice in term of radicalization, and nonetheless voted for exit.

The pro-EU camp should react changing – radically – the political direction of the EU. The community project is facing a structural crisis from decades, which EU intelligentsia has tackled with empty slogans such as “more europe” and draconian austerity measures. The situation is unsustainable as it stands, and it will collapse if countermeasures in terms of fiscal union and european welfare services are not taken. Let’s hope – at least – that Brexit will serve as a lesson in this sense


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