Anti-Europe parties aren’t anti-Europe anymore

Instead of promising to protect people from the European Union, populists have started promising to make the EU protect the people

Like every other member of the European Union, Britain is preparing to participate in the coming EU parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of this month—and across the continent, populism seems likely to perform very well. But Britain stands apart in one important respect: Only in the United Kingdom does populism still widely take the form of anti-EU ideology. (Polls suggest Nigel Farage’s strident Brexit Party may emerge as the largest vote-getter.) Elsewhere, the parties that once advocated for leaving the EU are still campaigning—but over the past two years they’ve fundamentally changed their central message.

In 2016, the European Council on Foreign Relations counted at least 15 parties across Europe campaigning for a referendum on their country’s EU membership. Today that message is practically nonexistent. Instead, in an ironic twist, nationalist parties are joining hands across the EU under Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s banner demanding a “Common-Sense Europe”: not the end of the European Union but a changed European Union, one that focusses more on security, manages immigration more closely, and takes a “nation first” approach to the economy.

To read the full article in Foreign Policy, published on 7 May 2019, click here

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Senior Director for Strategy and Transformation
Senior Policy Fellow

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