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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election

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EU Vote Shifts Bloc Further Right Than Ever Before

EU Vote Shifts Bloc Further Right Than Ever Before

The European elections have delivered a political earthquake across the continent, with parties gaining ground that share a common antipathy towards Brussels overreach, immigration, and the EU’s net zero emissions target.

Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call a snap election in France after suffering humiliation at the hands of Marine Le Pen rightly grabbed headlines. However, in Brussels, as the votes were tallied, it began to look like business as usual.

Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, won’t have thanked Macron for stealing the limelight, fresh from leading his centre-left SPD to its worst ever European election result. His unpopular and bickering coalition government is now under immense pressure after being beaten by the centre-right CDU and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The victors will undoubtedly ask why Scholz won’t follow Macron’s lead and call an election himself. Europe has swung to the right, just as Britain looks poised to elect a left-wing government.

Le Pen’s victory was mirrored in significant gains for Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Herbert Kickl’s Freedom Party of Austria, and Alice Weidel’s Alternative for Germany. Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party secured a decisive victory, garnering 28.82 per cent of the vote on Monday with 97 per cent of all votes counted – surpassing the 26 per cent she secured in the September 2022 national elections.

These parties all share a common disdain for Brussels overreach, immigration, and the EU’s net zero target. However, they remain divided between pro-Ukraine and pro-Putin factions, which will sap their influence over EU law as it passes through the parliament.

Meanwhile, traditional centre-right parties emerged victorious in Germany and Spain. The establishment European People’s Party (EPP), an alliance of European conservatives, will once again be the largest single group in the new parliament.

This bodes well for EPP member Ursula von der Leyen, who hopes to use the election results to secure a second five-year term as European Commission President.

The centre-left Socialists and Democrats, Liberals, Greens, and EPP have long operated in an informal coalition to push through EU law and increase European integration. The socialists, once again the second-largest group, have already signalled their support for Mrs von der Leyen’s appointment.

Despite the gains for the eurosceptic right, pro-EU parties have maintained their majority. The status quo has held in Brussels, with EU politics proving more resilient to domestic politics in its member states.

Nevertheless, the EU is not impervious to the concerns of its voters. The 2015 migrant crisis has cast a long shadow, and EU attempts to reform asylum policy have failed to dispel it.

In Germany, before the elections, a failed asylum seeker attacked an anti-Islam demonstration, resulting in the death of a police officer. This incident may partly explain support for the fiercely anti-immigrant AfD, despite the party being beset by a slew of scandals.

The fraying patience with the EU’s net zero goal has been equally influential. In the 2019 elections, the Greens posted their best-ever results, buoyed by the mass climate protests led by Greta Thunberg.

However, the war in Ukraine triggered a cost-of-living crisis, leading to a backlash against EU net zero rules, seen as too expensive and burdensome. Farmers’ protests against these rules have managed to garner support in urban areas across countries like the Netherlands.

Mrs von der Leyen’s flagship net zero policy now faces a significant threat. Her EPP turned against the policy in the face of the farmers’ protests that paralysed Europe. It successfully moved to water down green legislation, removed strict protections for wolves, and railed against a planned ban on petrol engines in cars.

Mrs von der Leyen herself shelved plans to cut pesticide use and agricultural emissions as the tractors rolled through Brussels.

The EPP, Liberals, and Socialists can maintain their majority without the Greens’ support. The EPP has also been courting Ms Meloni and could vote with her soft eurosceptic group, potentially dispensing with the Liberals if necessary.

In the 2019 European elections, the hard-right consolidated the gains they made in 2014. Since then, the mainstream has adopted their immigration policies, such as Rwanda-style offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Now, Europe’s greens will fear that the backlash against net zero, fuelled by the cost-of-living crisis caused by the Ukraine war, will become accepted in the same way.

Le Pen and her hard-right allies may not hold the balance of power in Europe, but their success has already influenced traditional conservatives and is dragging the centre of EU politics further to the right than it has ever been.

The implications of this rightward shift are far-reaching. Issues like immigration and climate change policy, once the domain of fringe parties, have now taken centre stage. The mainstream parties, in a bid to stem the flow of voters to the far-right, have been forced to adopt more hardline stances on these issues.

This shift raises concerns about the protection of human rights, particularly for immigrants and asylum seekers. The adoption of policies like offshore processing of asylum claims, reminiscent of Australia’s controversial policies, sets a worrying precedent for the treatment of vulnerable groups.

Furthermore, the backpedalling on climate change commitments and the watering down of environmental protections could have severe long-term consequences for the planet. The EU, once a leader in the fight against climate change, now risks becoming a laggard, bowing to short-term economic pressures at the expense of long-term sustainability.

The rise of far-right and eurosceptic parties also poses a threat to the unity and cohesion of the European Union itself. While they may not hold the balance of power currently, their growing influence could embolden calls for greater national sovereignty and a weakening of EU institutions.

It remains to be seen how these dynamics will play out in the new European Parliament and Commission. However, one thing is clear: the EU is undergoing a seismic shift, with the political centre of gravity moving further to the right than ever before. How the mainstream parties navigate this new landscape will have far-reaching implications for the future of the bloc and its policies on issues ranging from immigration to climate change.

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