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Brexit Proves That The Ultra Right And Ultra Left Are Together In Their Dislike For EU

25/06/2016 4:18 PM IST | Updated 18/07/2016 9:04 PM IST
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PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
Two people hold an European Union and United Kingdom at the castle of Hardelot, the cultural center of the Entente Cordiale (the colonial-era promise of cross-channel friendship between Britain and France) in Neufchatel-Hardelot, northern France. Britain has voted to break out of the European Union, striking a thunderous blow against the bloc and spreading panic through world markets on June 24, 2016 as sterling collapsed to a 31-year low. / AFP / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Rarely the far left and the far right come together on the same side of the political divide. But in Europe, they do and the Brexit outcome is an indicator of how contrasting ideologies can have the same imagination.

This is not about David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn longing to remain in Europe, but exactly about the opposite sentiment that at least some of their supporters seem to have shared.

Most of them loathe the idea of EU because it compromises their sovereignty. They want their autonomies back, they want to stop the dilution of the character of their nation-states, and they want to keep immigrants and Islamic terror away. They also don't like the hegemony of the EU.

The Brexit outcome is not surprising because an anti-immigrant, conservative, nationalist wave has been sweeping Europe for some time. The far right is on the rise in northern Europe while in the south - in countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal - it has been the non-traditional left that's been riding the anti-establishment wave.

The Brexit outcome is not surprising because an anti-immigrant, conservative, nationalist wave has been sweeping Europe for some time.

And the EU has been a common enemy. Let there be no confusion here though - in terms of geographic area, it's the far right that's cashing in on the anti-EU, nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-terror anxiety.

None of these right wing parties have anything in common other than their dislike for EU, immigrants and Islamic terror. Some of them are nationalist, some neo-fascist, some libertarian and some, Christian conservative. But, they are on the same side of the divide. And that's why more countries might walk out of the EU in due course to protect their interests. Some analysts are justifiably averse to clubbing them together as a far right block because of their diverse ideologies, but essentially they are all inward looking.

Almost a year back, the world took note of the surge of the right wing in Europe when Norbert Hofer of the nationalist Freedom party nearly missed a win in Austria's presidential elections. Between 2006 and 2016, the party had doubled its vote share. During the same period, extreme right wing parties had expanded their footprints in the rest of Europe except in the south: the Front National in France; the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) in Germany, the Swedish Democrats in Sweden; the coalition of Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik in Hungary; the Danish People's party in Denmark; the Law and Justice Party in Poland; the Finns Party in Finland; the Flemish Interest Party in Belgium, and the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) in Netherlands - all have made considerable inroads in terms of share of votes.

The rise of the right is not surprising because during times of economic adversity people do tend to look for political reasons and seek protection in ultra-nationalism. The economic slowdown and the refugee-influx were real and the right wing ideologies naturally connected them. The bomb blasts in Paris and Belgium added extra fodder to their latent xenophobic fears.

The rise of the right is not surprising because during times of economic adversity people do tend to look for political reasons and seek protection in ultra-nationalism.

It's hard to imagine a reversal of this right wing and ultra-nationalist surge because the underlying reasons are unlikely to disappear. The far left, that even the remnant of the Indian left brandishes for their validation, will be confined to its limited presence in the south.

It remains to be seen how long can the EU survive the euro-scepticism and anti-immigrant sentiments fuelled by the right wing parties. The Brexit outcome might further catalyse the nationalist sentiments of the people and draw them more towards the far right. If the UK does well post Brexit, signs of fresh fissures may appear in the rest of Europe sooner than later.

Even the new left in Italy, Spain and Greece, who are at the other end of the ideological spectrum, too share this scepticism and opposition to the authority of the EU. Therefore, the momentum for the disintegration of the EU is a reality.

One can only speculate the socio-political and economic ramifications of the possible collapse of the Eurozone and the emergence of protectionist nation-states. Some overzealous analysts in India feel that the Brexit outcome might help skilled Indian migrants because England will shut the door on poor eastern Europeans. The businesses are concerned that their market will be fragmented and they will have to set up separate offices in Britain and Europe and get separate clearances. If more countries breakaway, it will be a logistical headache.

Anyway, nuanced political positions are at risk. People preferred "we want our country back" than Corbyn's "remain and reform".

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