By Alexander Grey
The European Union is often touted as the exemplar in international cooperation, but the Union is facing a number of grave threats that could ultimately tear it apart, from disputes over Ukrainian and Turkish membership to continued economic collapse in the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) states. Yet, the greatest adversary the EU must face is an enemy from within the gates: the growing number of Eurosceptics.
The Eurosceptic movement has existed for decades, tracing back to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, one of the many precursors to the formation of the EU. The movement ultimately boils down to nationalism, skeptical of the need of the European Union and seeing it as a usurper of state sovereignty, believing that any such international organizations in Europe are unnecessary to how European nations should operate. The movement started and maintains a strong base in Britain, but Pew Research has found that the movement is growing quickly in France and Greece as well, where upwards of two-thirds of the population opposes EU integration.
The Brexit referendum in June only proved the growth of this movement: that it is possible to leave the EU and still survive. While the vote rocked the British economy at a three-decade low, there was not complete implosion of either the economy of society, as reported by Wall Street Journal. Britain stands firm as it now moves to evoke Article 50 in March, pending Parliament’s approval.
But the thought that this will lead to a sudden rise in Eurosceptic MPs in the European Parliament would be foolish – by the BBCs estimate, they already control one-third of the body. While this sizable chunk is spread across a number of the smaller parties within the Parliament, the lines will not be divisive when it comes to blocking integration measures, forcing the two leading parties ( center-right and center-left) to come together to have a chance at surpassing this bloc.
Euroscepticism already maintains a firm grasp in the European Union’s most important organ. A movement with the singular goal of dissolving the Union is gaining traction with every election. The fox is in the henhouse.
Moreover, this metaphorical fox is only going to grow in the next election cycle. The post-Brexit world will solidify the skeptics and push the other heavily Eurosceptic states to a form of “hard Euroscepticism” where the movement can rally behind a firm victory, allowing for further electoral successes. It is not illogical to assume that Eurosceptics, in the next few years, could become one of the major parties of the Parliament.
It is for that reason that any other issues facing the EU are negligible until this growing issue is handled. When the party gains enough MPs to begin to systematically block votes of the Parliament, they can stall the function of the Union and begin the process of unravelling the integration of European states. The movement will finally be able to launch its ultimate goal: ending the European Union and allowing nationalism to rise again in Europe.
Europe brushed off the Eurosceptics for years, assuming they were nothing more than a disgruntled minority spread too thin across the continent to be of any threat, yet the myriad crises of the EU in the last decade have allowed the message of life without the Union to spread and gain traction in those states most neglected. Now the movement may be too far progressed to be undone. Brexit is finally allowing the skeptics to begin dismantling the Union as their numbers swell in the Parliament.
By Alexander Grey