Brexit domino effect: How Leave victory sparked ‘contagion’ of anti-EU sentiment in Europe

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The latest round of talks have taken place within the context of the coronavirus, this transpiring to be something of a hindrance. Last week, despite little progress being made, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed a trade deal with the EU based on the UK’s “very reasonable” demands is still possible.

He said he “very much” hoped a no-deal outcome could be avoided if the two sides could work together.

His utterances came after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, accused the UK of “backtracking” on its commitments.

Mr Barnier said there are four main areas where differences in opinion remain: fisheries, competition rules, governance and police cooperation.

Guidelines for these things, however, were set out in the political declaration agreed by the UK and EU last year.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: “My responsibility is to speak to truth and, to tell the truth, this week there have been no significant areas of progress.”

As things stand, the UK has until the end of June to ask for the “transition period” to be extended into next year.

This is the period in which the UK remains part of the single market and customs union, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled this option out.

A number of stalls in the Brexit talks have taken place in the four years since the referendum’s result.

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The Leave victory surprised many European nations, sparking calls from several countries within the bloc for their own referendums.

In 2016, the Daily Telegraph reported how EU leaders feared a string of “copycat” polls tearing the organisation apart, in a piece called ‘The Brexit contagion: How France, Italy and the Netherlands now want their referendum to’.

In Italy, at the time, the anti-establishment Five Star movement declared it would demand a referendum on the euro.

The party’s leader, Beppe Grillo, went as far as to call for a full referendum on EU membership.


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He said: “The mere fact that a country like Great Britain is holding a referendum on whether to leave the EU signals the failure of the European Union.”

Worryingly for the EU, Five Star won 19 out of 20 mayoral elections in June 2016 – just days after the Brexit result.

Meanwhile, in France, the Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, rallied her supporters to part from the “decaying” EU.

She said: “I would vote for Brexit, even if I think that France has a thousand more reasons to leave than the UK.”

Even the Netherlands, considered by many as an EU safe state, showed that a majority of voters wanted a referendum on membership.

There, voters were, similar to the UK, split over whether to stay or go.

Many other countries also declared their interest in leaving the EU.

Several big name states agreed on wanting a referendum on EU membership, according to a 2016 Barclays poll.

Among them, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Hungary.

Hungary is one of the hottest tipped countries to challenge the EU, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban looks to impose a set rules and laws to elevate his country.

With the backdrop of the pandemic, Mr Orban has already given himself power to rule by decree.

What’s more, a lack of vocal opposition from the EU has forced many members to question their own place in an organisation that turns a blind eye to such political activities.

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