January 2, 2017

2017: Europe primed for political earthquake

2017: Europe primed for political earthquake

With storm clouds on the horizon, 2017 looks set to deliver a wave of new leadership across Europe, and with it a more favourable forecast for Britain’s Brexit negotiations, argues Patrick Sullivan.

With Trump soon to be installed in the White House, and Brexit underway, the wave of populism that came to define 2016 looks set to continue well into the new year.

These factors, combined with the forthcoming crunch elections in Italy, Germany and France, mean this year looks set to be even more of a rollercoaster ride for the bosses in Brussels than 2016.

Conventional thinking has the UK as a lone voice in its opposition to free movement. But even a cursory glance at some of the opposition parties vying for power in next year’s elections show that the tectonic plates of European politics are primed to send a political earthquake shattering across the continent.

With anti-European sentiment fomenting from Naples to Nuremberg, the odds on the UK securing a favourable Brexit settlement are undoubtedly shortening.


In Italy, Matteo Renzie’s resignation as Prime Minister has thrown a country famed for the dysfunction of its political class into even greater turmoil. Currently under the stewardship of foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, the country fresh parliamentary elections are likely to be called early in the new year.

The country’s two populist parties, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League look set to win big. Both have expressed scepticism about Italy’s membership of the Euro and freedom of movement.

Some have even speculated that Five Star Movement might secure enough seats for its bumptious leader, Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, to end up as Italy’s next Prime Minister. I can’t see Angela Merkel laughing at that punch line…

Given he’s expressed his admiration for UKIP’s Nigel Farage in the past, some see him as being more sympathetic to Brexit Britain than others.

And his promise to stage a referendum on the country’s membership of the Euro should he gain office is likely to grab all the Eurocrats’ attention in Brussels, and divert attention away from turning the screws on Brexit Britain. In the event, Brussels should also be wary of adopting too antagonistic approach towards the UK for fear of provoking a backlash from sympathetic and frustrated Italian voters.

In March, the Dutch will take to the polling booths. If the polls keep moving in their current direction, the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic Freedom Party looks set to gain the most seats. Even taking into account the party’s current polling projections, the country’s electoral system means the Freedom Party’s controversial leader, Geert Wilders, who was once banned from the UK for being an “undesirable person”, is unlikely to be the next Dutch Prime Minister.

Instead, the next government will likely be a continuation of the current coalition between the VVD (Liberals) and the Labour Party. However, the growing popularity of the “far-right” in the Netherlands will force the more established parties to take this election as a warning and try to address genuine concerns both about Brussels, and immigration.

Meanwhile in Brussels…

The popular unrest in Europe is also likely to impact the otherwise impenetrable bubble of European government in Brussels. If turmoil does start to take hold, don’t be surprised if new leadership is installed in the European Commission in a bid to steady the ship.

Indeed, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, herself badly damaged by her handling of the migrant crisis, is seen to be rapidly losing authority. The de facto leader of the European Union is finding herself increasingly isolated.


Mere days before her Italian ally Matteo Renzi resigned, and just when the German Chancellor thought her year couldn’t get any worse, another ally, French President François Hollande announced he would not seek re-election, thus confirming his lame duck status.

The contest to be France’s next President looks set to be a contest between Marine Le Pen and either ‘independent’ candidate, Emmanuel Macron, former Economy minister under M. Hollande or the Republican candidate Francois Fillon.

The election will be a key test for how far Mme. Le Pen has succeeded in decontaminating the Front National brand from the days of her Holocaust denying father’s leadership. In 2002, when he made the final ballot, the clear majority of Socialists held their noses and voted the unpopular Gaullist, Jacques Chirac, in for a second term. Whether she has a chance will depend on how successful she has been in bringing her party and its message into the mainstream of French politics.

The odds of a President Le Pen are still unlikely, although in the age of Trump one should be wary of ruling anything out. What is more likely is that she will do better than expected and in doing so change the centre of gravity in French Politics.

Whether Mme. Le Pen ends up facing M. Macron or M. Fillon, her challenger is likely to try and appropriate some parts of her policies.

Whatever the result, the next occupant of the Elysee Palace is bound to repesent a significant break from M. Hollande with the adoption of a more France First approach both to foreign policy and immigration.


The surge in support for populists across Europe is likely to cause the greatest level of concern in Germany. The true symbol of Angela Merkel’s failure as German Chancellor is the growth of the right-wing Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party. The AfD have been the prime political beneficiaries of the backlash from Merkel’s open door policy to Middle Eastern migrants, coming second in the 2016 regional elections. They even knocked Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union into third place in her own home state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommem.

If polls remain as they are, next September’s federal elections will see the AfD break the threshold for representation in the Bundestag. While this doesn’t mean they will form any part of a governing coalition (all other parties will avoid cooperating with them) but that will not make the achievement any less historic. It will be the first time since the Second World War that an anti-immigrant, nationalist party will be seated in Germany’s Parliament.

There are numerous reasons why the political class in Germany will not want this to happen. It is extremely likely that pressure will be put on Angela Merkel not to seek a fourth term, especially given that she is seen by many as the cause of the refugee crisis.

Without Merkel, Germany’s governing parties will most likely disavow her excesses and move to address legitimate concerns regarding immigration and the costs of further European integration. Any new Chancellor will need to tend to the quagmire on the home front before undertaking any grandiose ideas about running the European Union. This can only be good for Britain.

With storm clouds on the horizon, this year looks set to deliver a wave of new leadership across Europe, and with it a more favourable forecast for Britain’s forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

3.70 avg. rating (74% score) - 40 votes
Patrick Sullivan
Patrick Sullivan is the Chief Executive of Parliament Street, a Westminster based think-tank. He was previously research director for a US Congressional Campaign in 2012.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see https://mises.org/blog/goal-socialists-socialism-—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. https://mishtalk.com/2017/03/29/bad-brexit-deal-better-than-no-deal-mathematical-idiocy-odds-of-no-deal/ and https://www.worldheadlines.info/2017/03/after-brexit-9-reasons-to-be-bullish-on-great-britain/

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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