It was generally considered that after the Brexit referendum, a sense of contagion or a domino effect would be created, which would lead to other European Union member states following suit and holding referendums on membership of the EU. However, this hasn’t been the case and support for the EU and its institutions has appeared to have grown.

A recent poll released has suggested that positivity about EU membership is high with 16 out of 28 member states being surveyed. This poll recently taken by Kantar available on the Twitter page of EuropeElects shows that support for European Union is particularly high, even in countries such as France, with significant populist movements. In this poll taken, 91% of Ireland supported EU membership, 91% also for The Netherlands, 89% for Sweden, 88% for Spain, 89% for Germany, 87% for Belgium, 92% for Portugal, 75% for Greece, 83% for Bulgaria, 74% for France, 89% for Estonia, 86% for Slovakia, 72% for Italy, 81% for Hungary, 86% for Denmark, 89% for Poland and 89% for Romania. Even in notable countries such as Britain, 58% of people in Britain are in favour of European Union membership. This is despite the fact that almost 52% of Britain overall, voted in favour of leaving the EU in June 2016.

Does this necessarily mean that the chaos that has been caused by the ongoing Brexit deadlock has led to the stronger support for EU membership?

While the 2016 Brexit referendum result may have demonstrated the divisions and dissatisfaction with the EU itself, recent polls taken have shown that while the rise of populism and negativity towards the EU is growing, it is overstated. The real problem with the Brexit referendum was the politicians that campaigned on both sides of the referendum and campaigned on a referendum that should never have been called in the first place. Like the Finnish vice president of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala recently stated on Sky News, the Brexit referendum was like an opinion poll rather than a properly planned out process, which was clearly highlighted with the ‘earthquake’ results. Even Donald Tusk’s comments on there “being a special place in hell for Brexiteers” resembled the frustrations throughout Europe of this aggravating Brexit process. It is clear to see his point of view, because it is frustrating that this deadlock of Brexit doesn’t get any easier with clear division within the main parties in Britain on how to carry on the process. The referendum campaign clearly demonstrated this. The main parties, the Conservatives and Labour were hugely divided on the Brexit process with a large portion of their members being on the leave side of the campaign with a comparable portion on the remain side of the referendum. The referendum result resembled the poor Brexit campaign as the electorate ended up believing the lies that the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson told to the British electorate. Why hasn’t this Brexit referendum caused a process of

Brexit contagion?

It is clear to see why there hasn’t been a process of Brexit contagion across EU member states with many of these member states having the foresight to see how this shambolic process continues with the same deadlock. This demonstrates that despite the growing populist movement across Europe, citizens within member states still hugely support membership of the EU. After the referendum, many people believed that this Brexit referendum would cause a chain reaction in countries such as The Netherlands or Hungary but many factors have prevented this. One factor may be because the current governments in countries such as The Netherlands, haven’t got a negative attitude towards the EU. Under Mark Rutte, and the VVD, their attitude towards the EU, is not wholly negative and are particularly unhappy with Brexit. In comparison to this, Gert Wilders and the PVV, have a sceptic attitude towards mass migration and the EU itself. In the 2017 Dutch general elections, the VVD beat Wilders’ PVV party. The victory of Wilders and the PVV could have had a negative consequence on The Netherlands with their xenophobic attitude towards the Muslim population. Another factor may be that these countries don’t want to leave the EU because they have benefited from the four freedoms of movement as a privilege of being a EU member state. Since Eastern bloc countries such as Hungary and Poland have joined the EU, their economy has benefited massively, with the promotion of economic growth. Despite the populist governments in these respective countries, support for EU membership is in the high 80s in terms of percentage. This means that while the populist movement has gathered movement across Europe, this doesn’t necessarily mean that citizens within Europe have a negative feeling of EU membership.

EU Unity?

Throughout this Brexit process, unity amongst member states within the EU has grown stronger by each passing month. This has been clearly shown with the support for Ireland in the Brexit process because of the border between the North and South of Ireland being in serious jeopardy as a result of Britain exiting the EU. Support for the Good Friday Agreement amongst member states has clearly been stated. In fact, it was the EU that has helped to maintain and keep the peace upon the island of Ireland, particularly under Jacques Delor. Recently, the likes of Barnier, Tusk and Macron have declared that they will always support Ireland as a EU member state and their support will never diminish towards one of its most crucial member state. Many Brexiteers have sceptically thought that EU support for Ireland will clearly disappear and will lead to Ireland being left on their own with no support from the EU. These predictions have clearly been wrong and the EU support for Ireland is growing rather than diminishing. Further meetings with Merkel and Varadkar have demonstrated the support from the EU’s most powerful member state, Germany, for the island of Ireland and the border that has maintained peace. The EU must continue to maintain what it has managed to do so over the past three years, which is strong unity amongst member states.

If people thought that the Brexit referendum result would lead to Brexit contagion, they clearly thought wrong.

Atakan Uzun
A young Irish based blogger who is studying BSc Government and Politics at UCC, Ireland. Part of the Europa United social media team.

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