Sunday, June 16, 2024

British Remainers’ EU dreams are about to turn into a nightmare

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Have British Europhiles really woken up to what is happening in Europe? Their attitudes towards the EU have always been woefully naive, informed more by their summer holidays in Tuscany and their enjoyment of “sophisticated” European culture than by any real knowledge of how politics on the continent works.

They have spent years criticising Britain as some sort of bigoted backwater, a world apart from that supposed bastion of liberal values, Brussels. Now, however, they may be about to get a massive wake-up call.

Across the EU, people are increasingly voting for hard-Right parties. The European elections began in the Netherlands on Thursday morning and will carry on across the 27 member countries until Sunday night, with the final results known early on Monday.

All the polls are predicting huge gains for Right-wing parties, including some worryingly extreme ones. The Alternative for Germany party – one of whose candidates recently suggested there were good people to be found in the Nazi SS – could come out ahead of Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party is expected to trounce president Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance; in Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has its roots in the country’s fascist past, is due to increase its number of seats in the European Parliament. The nationalist Law and Justice party is looking to make a comeback in Poland after losing power last December. It follows a shock win for populist Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in last November’s Dutch general election.

Yet still Europhiles want to rejoin the bloc – despite some of these European hardliners making Nigel Farage look like Ken Clarke.

We know that, if Labour gets into power, arch-Remainer Sir Keir Starmer is going to push for closer alignment with the EU – because shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has hinted as much. Yet if Right-wing groups do end up substantially increasing their share of the seats in the European Parliament, Starmer and co might want to be careful what they wish for.

This is the truth of the lie about the EU: even post-Brexit, Britain has always been much more tolerant than some of its continental cousins.

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