Rush to exit? Politicians clamor for EU membership referendums at home

A general view shows the House of Parliament in The Hague © Paul Vreeker
Euroskeptic parties across the EU have been inspired by the British ‘Leave’ vote with right-wing politicians in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and France all calling for referendums on their countries’ membership in the bloc.

The Netherlands should hold its own referendum on whether to leave the EU as soon as possible, according to the leader of the Dutch anti-immigrant PVV party, Geert

“It’s a fantastic result! I congratulate the British people for beating the political elite in both London and Brussels and I think we can do the same,” Wilders told  on Friday.

“The Dutch would like to be in charge again of their own budget, their national borders and their immigration policy. We should have a referendum about a 'Nexit' [Netherlands exit] as soon as possible,” the politician said. 

Wilders' Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant PVV party is topping opinion polls in the Netherlands, one of the six founder nations of the union.

There is no future any more for the EU […] I think we will benefit [from Nexit] not only economically but also [in tackling] the Islamization of Europe, immigration, the threat of Islamic terrorism that we see growing, the emergence of asylum seekers. We cannot deal with [these issues] today [within the EU],” he said. The PVV party chief added he will make the Dutch referendum on EU membership a central point of his campaign to become prime minister in the parliamentary elections in 2017.

France's right-wing National Front party joined in the calls for a referendum on EU membership. Party leader Marine Le Pen even adorned her Twitter page with a British flag, calling Brexit a “victory of freedom.”

We now need to hold the same referendum in France and in [other] EU countries,” she wrote. Le Pen is the front-runner among the candidates for next year's French presidential election, although polls claim she would be likely to lose in a run-off.

Denmark's populist anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF) also declared the need for a “stay-or-leave” referendum.

I believe that the Danes obviously should have a referendum on whether we want to follow Britain or keep things the way we have it now,” Kristian Thulesen Dahl, DF party chief, said on Friday, as quoted by Reuters.

The Sweden Democrats, the country’s anti-immigration party that has the support of some 17 percent of the population, was also inspired by the Brits’ decision.

We demand that Sweden immediately starts to renegotiate the [EU] deals we have made and that the Swedish people will be able to speak up about a future EU-membership in a referendum,” Jimme Akesson, the party leader, has said.

Italy’s right-wing Northern League was even more enthusiastic, with party leader Matteo Salvini tweeting: “Long live the courage of free citizens! Heart, head and pride fighting lies, threats and blackmail. Thank you, UK, now it's our turn.”

That’s as Italy's opposition 5-Star Movement, the country’s second most popular political establishment, swore to push for its own proposal for a referendum on whether to remain in the union.

Berlin on Friday expressed worries that other EU countries could follow the British example and seek to leave the European Union, German newspaper Die Welt reports, citing a Finance Ministry strategy paper.

The strategy paper estimated Germany's contribution to the annual EU budget could greatly increase by some €3 billion (US$3.34 billion) once Britain leaves the group, and therefore suggested that Germany should offer the UK “constructive exit negotiations” to keep the state as an “associated partner country” to the bloc, the newspaper reports.

Recent polls in European countries showed the British example could be taken up by many in, if not most of, the bloc. Polls conducted in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary indicated that up to 40 percent of the population in these states could ‘want out’ of the EU.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented on the news of a Brexit, earlier today saying: “For the UK, Europe and for [Russia] this referendum is sure to have consequences […] of a global sort. They are inescapable. There will be both positive and negative ones.