Anthony Browne

Plan overboard!

The euro crisis has prompted national parliaments across the continent to dump their Euro-federalist baggage

The euro crisis has prompted national parliaments across the continent to dump their Euro-federalist baggage

It was the political equivalent of Mother Teresa announcing that she had converted to agnosticism. Bart De Wever, the leader of Belgium’s largest political party, was such a Euro-federalist zealot that a year ago he declared he wanted his country to ‘evaporate’ into the beloved EU. But that was so 2010. A few weeks ago he shared a platform with the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, Europe’s most Eurosceptic head of state, and declared: ‘I am a Eurorealist.’ To walk the walk, De Wever’s party, the N-VA, rejected a Brussels proposal for a new Euro-tax, an act as out of character for Belgian politicians as refusing a Trappist ale. This is a new force in European politics: Belgian Euroscepticism.

There has been much discussion in the British media about how the new intake of Tory MPs, and how Eurosceptic they are. Their idea of political balance, it has been said, is a picture of Thatcher on the wall and Jacques Delors on the dartboard. Some, led by Chris Heaton-Harris and George Eustice, are agitating to entrench a ‘mainstream Euroscepticism’ into the mother of parliaments. But unnoticed from this sceptred isle, Euroscepticism has been marching rapidly through national parliaments across the EU. Used to rubber-stamping EU law, they are now standing up for national democracy. It is European parliaments, not ours, that are setting the pace.

Support for the EU is collapsing among the European public, and populist Eurosceptic parties are being elected en masse in countries from Denmark to Austria, from the Netherlands to Finland. The euro crisis has transformed European politics to the extent that even mainstream MPs, who normally lay themselves down in the cause of ever closer union, are discovering the joys of saying non, nein and nee.

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Written by
Anthony Browne
Anthony Browne MP is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment. He is a former Europe correspondent at the Times and environment editor at the Observer. He is now MP for South Cambridgeshire and a member of the Treasury Select Committee.

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