European rightists eye Brexit as chance for EU reform

A British vote to leave the European Union could force the bloc to return powers to its member states and could result in additional referenda, leaders of European far-right and EU-sceptic parties said Friday in Vienna.

A Brexit, as the plan to leave the EU is known, would boost the goals of such parties as it could be "the start of a Europe a la carte," said Marine Le Pen, who heads France's National Front.

She spoke at a meeting of several right-wing populist parties also including Austria's Freedom Party and Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD), who want EU member countries to regain national decision-making power from the union.

Le Pen said the British vote next Thursday should be followed by referenda in other countries.

"Other countries should also be asked about their relationship with the European Union," she said.

If Britons vote for Brexit next week, the EU would have to negotiate with Britain and would have to prove that it is ready for structural reforms, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said at a joint press conference with Le Pen.

Public votes like the one in Britain are the only way to "stop, constrain and correct the political establishment in important questions," Strache said.

Europe's "patriotic" parties want to reform the EU from the inside, he said, to seek more direct democracy, more powerful national parliaments, protection against global corporations and the protection of cultural identities.

The aim was to build an "alliance for security, prosperity and peace" in the face of the current mass migration movement, Strache said.

The meeting in Vienna also included EU parliamentarians of the AfD, Italy's Lega Nord, and the Dutch Vlaams Belang movement, as well as Tomio Okamura, head of the Czech party Freedom and Direct Democracy.

The Freedom Party is the most successful of these movements, holding 20 per cent of Austria's parliamentary seats.

The party's candidate Norbert Hofer lost the presidential election by a very narrow margin against Green rival Alexander Van der Bellen last month, but the Freedom Party has launched a court case to challenge the result.

Le Pen's National Front has made halting progress clinching votes over its four-decade existence, but it topped the polls for the first time in the EU parliamentary elections in 2014.

Both Strache and Le Pen have managed to attract a swath of voters extending beyond conservaties by appealing to workers hit by economic woes.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
Author: 

More from Europe

Left-winger and former premier top French primary

Benoit Hamon and Manuel Valls were out in front in France's nationwide primary on Sunday to choose who will be the...

Romanian president joins thousands in anti-government rally

Thousands of Romanians were joined by President Klaus Iohannis in a street protest in Bucharest on Sunday against...

Suspected accomplice detained in Germany in foiled Vienna attack

A 21-year-old man and his wife have been arrested in their home in the western German city of Neuss on suspicion of...

May vows to press Trump on "unacceptable" remarks in Friday meeting

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday vowed to confront US President Donald Trump about any "unacceptable"...

Hungarian bus company probed for negligence after Italy crash

Criminal negligence charges are being mulled against the owners of a bus that was in a fatal accident in Italy at...