Fast-forward almost three years and here we are, it’s European Parliament elections time-and although Eurosceptic parties are expected to make a strong showing at the polls, there’s barely a peep amongst them (UK parties remaining the exception) about leaving the European Union (EU).
In part, this is down to a growing awareness that the world out there is downright unpredictable: with President Trump in the White House; Russian President Putin at large around the European corner; looming trade wars; the environment in a mess; and the threat of mass migration to European continent from poorer parts of the globe.
The conclusion amongst many in Europe is that it’s safer to stick together. According to opinion polls, the EU is now more popular than it has been since the early 1980s.
But there’s another big reason that leaving is no longer so appealing: Brexit.
The social divisions that the 2016 referendum has driven through British society; the destructive tangle that UK politics finds itself in, in a parliament, traditionally revered across Europe as “the mother of parliaments”, has shocked European voters and frankly put them off.
Alice Weidel, one of the leaders of Germany’s Eurosceptic AfD party, said recently that she regretted her group’s flirtation with “Dexit” (an EU exit for Deutschland, the German word for Germany). Her feeling was that it lost them potential voters.
So, ahead of this week’s election for the European Parliament, Europe’s right-wing nationalists – including Marine Le Pen of France, Italy’s firebrand deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and the AfD – have been calling to “change the EU from the inside” rather than walk away from it altogether.
After the vote, they hope to become the third largest faction in the European Parliament. And they have the EU establishment rattled.
EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici describes these elections as the “most delicate and most dangerous ever”. He told me the nationalist Eurosceptic threatened to “destroy the EU as we know it”.
After she and her European colleagues had finished with the EU, she told me, she was sure that those who had voted leave in the UK would want to join their new “European Union of independent nations”. –BBC