EU facing member crisis as Greece and France countries tipped to leave

Brexit: Ben Habib says pandemic has ‘fuelled Euroscepticism’

Euroscepticism has been an especially strong undercurrent in European politics over the past decade, with several parties putting the question of continued membership forward in elections across the bloc since the UK’s departure. Whether it be Brussels’ laws, immigration quotas, or the scandals rocking the heart of the institution itself, countries have plenty of reasons to eye another path. Check’s interactive map below to see who’s most likely to exit next.

By 2016, years of Government frustration with Brussels and the creeping popularity of Eurosceptic parties among the public led then-Prime Minister David Cameron to hold the Brexit referendum on June 23.

The 52 percent Leave vote saw the UK become the first country in history to formally quit the bloc just over three years ago on January 31, 2020. While no other country has followed suit, Brexit did throw the door open, and nations across the continent have been peering through.

Anti-EU sentiment has been growing in recent years for many of the same reasons that led to the UK’s departure: economic crises, loss of legislative control, and immigration. Add to that allegations of widespread corruption in Brussels’ halls of power — like the Qatargate scandal — and the cracks are becoming ever more visible.

Just last week, the European left suffered another blow as Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party got knocked back to third place in the Finnish elections, with a right-leaning coalition taking over control. Although the swing is likely to alarm the bureaucrats in Belgium, Finland is far from the country most likely to hold a membership referendum of its own.

According to online bookie comparison site OddsChecker, that title goes to Italy. In their running tally of “Next Country to Leave the EU”, the odds of the Mediterranean country giving the EU the boot are 3/1 or 33 percent.

In the September election, the government of Mario Draghi – a former president of the European Central Bank (ECB) – was swept aside by the right-wing populist Brothers of Italy party. Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s new prime minister, has in the past deplored Brussels as hostile and called out its efforts to “humiliate the British people who have freely chosen Brexit.”

Greece – the country whose sovereign debt crisis in the wake of the Great Recession led to rumours of a possible “Grexit” all the way back in 2012 – was found to be the second-most likely leaver, with odds of 6/1 or 16.7 percent.

The liberal-conservative New Democracy party has been in power since 2019, dealing a crushing defeat to the soaring Eurosceptic Syriza party at the time. However, with Greeks heading to the polls again next month, the gap between the two parties has narrowed from ten to five percent over the past year.

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In third place comes Poland, with odds of 7/1 or 14.3 percent. President Andrzej Duda, backed by the right-wing Law and Justice group of parties, has overseen a number of fallouts with Brussels over crackdowns on freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights. The country’s newfound position as a regional powerbroker since the start of the war in Ukraine has made its leadership ever more assertive in dealings with EU chiefs.

Next comes France (12.5 percent) – where ailing centrist Emmanuel Macron rules under the very real threat of the Front National – followed by Austria and the Czech Republic, both with odds of 8.3 percent.

However, according to the latest Eurobarometer – a regular survey by the European Commission taking the temperature of its citizens on a range of issues – the country whose citizens feel they would be best off outside of the bloc is Slovenia (42 percent).

Croatia (40 percent), Romania (37 percent) and Poland (37 percent) – all of which only joined the EU since 2004 – followed. Just over a third (36 percent) of Italians thought the same. Pro-EU leanings were strongest in Denmark, with 81 percent of respondents believing they were better off in the group.

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