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European Politics

Brexit has saved Britain from right-wing populism

Marine Le Pen: wouldn’t do well in Brexit Britain. Gabriel Kuchta/Getty

“From the Atlantic to the Urals,” says Philip Cunliffe in The New Statesman, right-wing politicians are “on the brink of power”. After the recent riots in France, the National Rally leader Marine Le Pen knows the next presidential election “is hers to lose”. In Spain, the hard-right Vox are way ahead as voters prepare to go to the ballot box next month. The insurgent Alternative for Germany, fresh from winning its first mayoralty, has drawn level with the “venerable ruling Social Democrats” in a recent poll. Then there are the places where the right already has power. In Sweden and Finland, national-populist parties are the second largest in government. Italian PM Georgia Meloni is promising to “crush the LGBT lobby”.

How striking, then, that Britain “stands alone against the tide” as the only major country expecting a “significant electoral swing to the left”. And it’s largely thanks to Brexit. We were told that leaving the EU would leave our “gloomy island” beset with “xenophobia and nativism”, and that our parliamentary democracy would degenerate into right-wing extremism. Instead, the reverse has happened. Not only did Brexit torpedo Ukip by removing its “sole reason for existing”, it also re-established a healthy “national-level representative democracy”. It is frustration with the EU – particularly with unelected elites making decisions about issues like immigration in relative secrecy – that’s fuelling Europe’s far-right surge. Brexit Britain, free from the “multinational diktat”, has a glorious opportunity to navigate between the “Scylla of supranational technocracy and the Charybdis of national populism”.