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

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