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|Why Brexit Could Be Just the Beginning for an Angry Europe
The anger against the European Union isn't going anywhere.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum. But the Euroskepticism that forced the referendum in the first place isn’t going anywhere. In fact, we should stop calling it “Euroskepticism.” It’s really “Eurohostility”—and it wouldn’t have gone away even if Britain had voted to stay in the E.U. Here are 5 places that show the depths of anti-E.U. anger beyond the British Isles—and what it means for Europe going forward.
In Italy, much of public anger focuses on the impact of the euro on the country’s economy. The Eurozone’s third-largest economy, Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio (currently above 130%, fifth-highest in the world) makes it both too-big-to-fail and too-big-to-save. Traditionally, it’s been a political basket case—the country has had 63 different governments since the end of World War II—though current center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has provided some stability and a credible push for much-needed reform. Renzi is trying to streamline the country’s unwieldy legislative process by concentrating power in the parliament’s lower house and granting the winning party an automatic minimum of 53 percent of seats to help ensure government stability. He’s called for a constitutional referendum this October to push through these changes.
Renzi is facing pushback from the fiercely anti-establishment 5 Star Movement (M5S), an economically populist party pushing Italy to leave the Euro. M5S’s message has found plenty of ears. Significant victories came this past weekend: Virginia Raggi won Rome’s mayoralty with 67 percent of the vote, and another M5S candidate was elected mayor of Turin, the industrial heartland of the country.
Renzi has vowed to resign should his constitutional referendum fail to pass; at the moment, 28.6 percent of Italians support the reforms, 27.2 percent oppose them, and 44.2 percent are undecided. But polls show that if elections were held today, M5S would squeak by Renzi’s party to secure first place.
(The Economist, CIA World Factbook, Reuters (a), Bloomberg, Reuters (b))
For other E.U. member states, Eurohostility is focused much more directly on the current migration crisis. Consider Scandinavia. Sweden, a country of less than 10 million, has accepted more asylum seekers per capita than any other European nation. Not coincidentally, the nationalist, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party has begun to play a more significant role in the country’s politics.
The party was founded in 1988, but didn’t find much political traction until the 2010 elections, entering parliament for the first time with 5.7 percent of the vote. It continued to grow, capturing 13 percent of the vote in 2014. Recent polls have them at 17.3 percent, making them the country’s third-largest party. Finland’s ultra-nationalist True Finn party has also recently emerged as a political force, securing nearly 20 percent of the vote in last year’s elections.
The Danish People’s Party won 21 percent in last year’s general elections, a 50 percent uptick over the past eight years. More importantly, it’s been able to push its anti-immigration agenda by forming a minority government with the Liberals, resulting in some of the harshest immigration rules in Europe. Danish legislators even passed a law this year requiring asylum seekers to hand over valuables to help pay the costs of resettlement.
(BBC, CNN, Statistics Sweden, The Guardian)
3. Eastern Europe
Migration woes have also boosted Eurohostile parties in Eastern Europe. Sometimes, political parties don’t need to win seats in government to change their countries’ political agendas. Nigel Farage and the upstart U.K. Independence Party forced British PM David Cameron to run to the right in last year’s parliamentary elections; the Brexit referendum was a last-ditch promise by Cameron to keep some Euroskeptic Tories from defecting to the UKIP camp.
In Hungary, Viktor Orban, the head of the ruling, right-wing Fidesz party and current prime minister, faced a similar threat from the surging anti-Semitic, racist Jobbik party, which went from 2 percent of the vote in 2006 to 21 percent today. Orban’s decision to build a razor-wire fence to keep out Syrian refugees was intended to burnish his nationalist credentials. The wall has slowed the flow of refugees into the country from more than 4,000 a day last fall to less than 100 within two months.
(The Guardian, Bloomberg)
As Hungary built fences, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed refugees. To date, more than a million asylum seekers have arrived in Germany. Merkel once had approval ratings in the mid-70s; today, 64 percent of Germans say Merkel shouldn’t run for re-election next year. Still, with no clear alternative, Merkel and her ruling CDU coalition are the favorites to win.
But the past few years have seen the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a right-wing, anti-EU party that has found traction by taking a strong line against Islam, for example by passing a motion in the party’s policy platform that declares the religion incompatible with the German constitution. The party failed to reach the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament in 2013, but it’s currently polling between 10 and 12 percent. Should those numbers hold until next year’s election, AfD would become the first right-wing party to win seats in the Bundestag since World War II.
(USA Today, AP, International Business Times, New York Times)
In France, the risk is more immediate. The ultra-nationalist, anti-E.U. Front National has remained mainly on the political fringes since Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the party in 1972. Following a flirtation with greater influence when Le Pen reached the second round of presidential voting in 2002, the party fell on hard times. It gained new life once his daughter Marine took over in 2011. The younger Le Pen pivoted from overt anti-Semitism and other right-wing populist ideas to a more streamlined (and logically consistent) anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-E.U. platform.
The party went from 0.1 percent of the vote in 2007 to 3.7 percent of the vote in 2012 as the Euro financial crisis took hold. Today it is polling solidly in the 20’s range; Marine Le Pen is now a leading presidential hopeful with 28 percent of the projected vote. Given France’s two-round presidential system, which favor mainstream parties, few analysts believe she will become president, but her influence on French politics is clearly on the rise.
That’s a concern for Brussels, since Le Pen dubbed herself ‘Madame Frexit’ and has promised the French people a referendum on E.U. membership should she come to power. At the moment, 55 percent of French citizens say they want a vote; 41 percent say they would vote ‘Leave.’ Demand for a referendum appears to be growing in a number of E.U. member states.
Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, markets rocked
by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton
Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.
Global stock markets plunged on Friday, and the British pound saw its biggest one day drop in history, as results from a referendum defied bookmakers' odds to show a 52-48 percent victory for the campaign to leave the bloc Britain joined more than 40 years ago.
The United Kingdom itself could now break apart, with the leader of Scotland, where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to stay in the EU, saying a new referendum on independence from the rest of Britain was "highly likely".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet French, German and Italian leaders in Berlin on Monday to discuss future steps, and the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, will meet on Saturday morning.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday tried to limit the fallout from Britain's vote to leave the European Union which threatens to harm the U.S. economic recovery and distract U.S. allies from global security issues. Obama, who had argued passionately against the UK leaving the EU in a trip to the Britain this year, vowed that Washington would still maintain both its "special relationship" with London and close ties to Brussels.
In an emotional speech on Friday, UK Prime Minister Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in Europe to defeat, after promising the referendum in 2013, said he would leave office by October.
"The British people have made the very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction," he said in a televised address outside his residence.
"I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," he added, choking back tears before walking back through 10 Downing Street's black door with his arm around his wife Samantha.
The British pound fell as much as 10 percent against the U.S. dollar on Friday to levels last seen in 1985 on fears the decision could hit investment in the world's fifth-largest economy, threaten London's role as a global financial capital, and usher in months of political uncertainty. The euro slid 2.0 percent against the U.S. dollar. [MKTS/GLOB]
World stocks saw more than $2 trillion wiped off their value. European stocks ended down 7.0 percent STOXX, the biggest one day fall since 2008. U.S. stocks fell suffered the largest selloff in ten months sharply, with the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI losing 3.4 percent. [.N]
Investors rushed to put their cash in the safety of gold which clocked up its biggest daily gain the global financial crisis of 2008, ending Friday up 5.0 percent at $1,315 an ounce.
INVENTING ANOTHER EUROPE
Quitting the world's biggest trading bloc could cost Britain access to the trade barrier-free single market and means it must seek new trade accords with countries around the world. A poll of economists by Reuters predicted Britain was likelier than not to fall into recession within a year.
The EU arose out of the ashes of two world wars to unite a continent and now faces the challenge of maintaining economic and political unity without Britain, which has the EU's biggest financial center, a U.N. Security Council veto, a powerful army and nuclear weapons.
"It's an explosive shock. At stake is the break-up pure and simple of the union," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "Now is the time to invent another Europe."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the "Brexit" vote a watershed for European unification.
The result emboldened eurosceptics in other EU member states, with French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders demanding their countries also hold referendums. Le Pen changed her Twitter profile picture to a Union Jack and declared "Victory for freedom!"
The British vote will trigger at least two years of divorce proceedings with the EU, the first exit by any member state. Cameron, in office since 2010, said it would be up to his successor to formally start the exit process.
His Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who became the most recognizable face of the Leave camp, is now widely tipped to seek his job.
"We can find our voice in the world again, a voice that is commensurate with the fifth-biggest economy on earth," he told reporters at Leave campaign headquarters.
Lawmakers from the opposition Labour Party launched a no-confidence motion to topple their leader, leftist Jeremy Corbyn, accused by opponents in the party of campaigning tepidly for its Remain stance.
The Brexit vote result has reignited a 300-year-old fight between Britain and Spain
by Jennifer Williams
In yesterday's Brexit vote, the 30,000 or so residents of the tiny British territory of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, with 95.9% casting their ballots to stay in the EU. But, of course, that was not what the rest of the UK ultimately decided.
For Gibraltarians, the UK's vote to leave the EU is an unmitigated disaster. It has reignited a centuries-old fight between Britain and Spain that has the potential to alter the lives — and national identities — of the people of Gibraltar.
That's because Spain believes that Gibraltar is rightfully its territory, and the Spanish government warned that if the UK voted to leave the EU, Spain would immediately push to try to reclaim control over Gibraltar.
And, as promised, shortly after the vote results were announced, the Spanish government called for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has been a British territory for 300 years
Gibraltar is a 2.5 square mile peninsula at the tip of Spain that has been under British control for more than 300 years. And Spain really wants it back.
British and Dutch forces captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, and Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht at the end of the war. Gibraltar has remained under British control ever since, despite Spain’s multiple attempts to take it back.
The majority of Gibraltarians, however, are British citizens who hold British passports and who adamantly do not want to be part of Spain.
In a referendum held in 1967, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency. The subsequent UK grant of autonomy in 1969 led Spain to close its border with Gibraltar and sever all communication links. It wasn’t until 1985, ahead of Spain’s accession to the EU, that Spain finally reopened the border.
In 2002, the people of Gibraltar voted in a referendum on whether the UK and Spain should share sovereignty — and again, Gibraltarians overwhelmingly voted to remain under the sole control of the Brits.
Gibraltarians want to be part of the UK and the EU
The vast majority of Gibraltarians were in favor of the UK staying in the EU in large part because of the economic prosperity being part of the EU has brought them.
But they also wanted the UK to stay in the EU because they feared if the UK voted to leave, Spain would immediately try to reassert its claim to Gibraltar. Indeed, those fears seem to have been justified. Spain’s acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo warned that his country would demand control of Gibraltar the "very next day" after a British exit from the EU. And that's precisely what Spain did.
Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said that Gibraltar’s political leaders had "fought to ensure that Gibraltar is able to vote in the Brexit referendum so that we can influence that decision." Unfortunately, it seems their influence wasn't quite as influential as they'd hoped it would be.
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