The rise of anti-establishment populist movements, both right and left, in Europe is beginning to pull the great edifice of European unity down. In May, the British Conservative Party will be facing its electorate. David Cameron’s approval numbers are in the mid-30s, lower than President Obama’s, and a faction of his party on the far right are campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.
To hold his party together, Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership in late 2017. And he believes leaving the EU can only be defeated if he can secure significant concession from Brussels on various issues, such as trade and worker movement. British opinion appears to be closely divided on staying in or out (41% to 41% in the latest YouGov polls).
The Greek left argues against additional austerity. They want more spending, at least another $1.6 billion, on social welfare needs, such as food and energy subsidies. Unfortunately for the Greeks, a deal with them would embolden anti-austerity parties in Spain (Podemos) or Italy (Five Star Movement) so Germany will not easily give in. Germany’s main threat is to kick Greece out of the euro zone.
Anti-establishment attitudes, combined with anti-austerity politics, have put the EU on the defensive.