Euro-skeptics are the front line forces of the anti European Union political doctrine in favor of disengaging and stepping back from the political and economic consolidation taking place within the EU. There are now numerous political parties in existence throughout Europe which ascribe to the ideas of tougher controls on immigration (in defiance of the EU guiding principle of freedom of movement of peoples), a vastly reduced bureaucratic structure for the EU, more recognition of nationalism, and a greater response to their populist support.
The rise of supranational organizations such as the ESCS European Coal and Steel Community laid the groundwork for the eventual EEC European Economic Community, a true free trade block which the Treaty of Rome envisioned back in 1957. In the following decades, membership within this EEC doubled from six to 12 nations as trade under the auspices of the customs union exponentially increased apace. The rise of such Euro-skeptics evolved over decades of frustration from the national publics who felt their wishes were being tramped upon with every subsequent EU agreement and move towards political and economic integration. Whenever national referendums were held asking citizens if they approved of further and closer integration, they either failed or barely passed muster.
The Euro-skeptics first flexed their muscles with the Danish rejection of the EU founding Maastricht Treaty that occurred in June of 1992. Only a few months after this crushing blow from Denmark, voters of founding EEC member France only barely passed the treaty with 51 percent of the electorate voting to ratify it. This result very clearly demonstrated that the political environment of Western Europe had dramatically shifted against the aims of the European project. With the EU undergoing its initial round of member state expansion in 1994, a round of national referenda occurred in all of the candidate prospective member states. Voters in Norway outright rejected accession. They remain outside of the EU to this day.
Such electoral upsets in Northern Europe and almost in France were warning tolls that the rising tide of Euro-skeptical groups and outright resistance to the aims of the European Union should not be ignored. Political parties affiliated with this Euro-skeptic viewpoint began to grow in size, power, and performance subsequently when EU leaders turned a deaf ear to their appeals.
The rise of various Euro-skeptic parties resulted form this cold shoulder approach from Brussels. There are two types of these movements, either classified as “hard” or “soft” Euro-skeptics. Hard skeptics avow complete separation and dissolution of the European project and wish to completely withdraw from the EU as in the shockingly successful pro Brexit movement in the U.K. Soft skeptics ascribe to reforming the European Union integration along lines involving a range of geographic, ethnic, ideological, or political divisions.
It was the UKIP United Kingdom Independence Party which grew most successfully and rapidly throughout the decades which followed its initial founding back in 1993. It has clearly emerged as the most victorious of the various national Euro-skeptic parties by virtue of achieving its stated aims of winning the referendum to withdraw from the EU entirely. This started with the rise in Britain of the United Kingdom Independence Party. Thanks to its nationally popular anti-immigration platform and support of British departure from the European Union, the UKIP notched a series of important election results in the early years of the 21st century. They won over a dozen seats in the European Parliament in 2009. They followed this up by securing over 100 local council seats in Great Britain in the 2013 elections.
Though the hard line Euro-skeptical ideas of the UKIP are still considered to be without the national political mainstream in the UK, they have gained many supporters in the ruling Conservative Party in Britain. British Prime Minister David Cameron sealed the fate of Britain in the EU with his promise to hold a national “in or out” vote as a referendum on British membership in the EU. His famous last words and subsequent loss of the vote toppled his government and began the successful run of Euro-skeptics that has been seen increasingly around Europe since July of 2016.
Other soft and hard Euro-skeptic parties now abound throughout peripheral European states especially. In Italy these are the Northern League led by Lega Nord and competing party the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, both of which advocate the return of the Italian lira at the expense of the common shared currency the euro. France has its second party in the country the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, while the Netherland’s Party for Freedom championed by Geert Wilders is also rising quickly. Hungary now has its Jobbik Far Right Party and Greece’s ruling party is the softly Euro-skeptical Syriza Coalition for the Radical Left.
The result of these several polls ushering the Euro-skeptics into power in various capitals and parliaments throughout Europe has marked a watershed moment in European Union history. The once-indomitable idea of inevitable movement in closer European integration is no longer seen as the foregone conclusion for all European countries. It is being completely reversed and undone in Britain, so far the only country to be given the chance to vote to reclaim its complete independence. Polls show that similar results may occur in 2017 in third largest Euro Zone member Italy as well.