Sunday 17 December 2017

Optimism on the rise as Far-Right sentiments wane

As Europe's economy starts moving, there are hopeful signs that politics is improving too, writes Dan O'Brien

Isolated: Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front party, will try to take France out of Europe if she wins the presidential election, which is looking increasingly unlikely. Photo: Reuters
Isolated: Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front party, will try to take France out of Europe if she wins the presidential election, which is looking increasingly unlikely. Photo: Reuters
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

On the Sunday before last June's referendum on the EU in Britain, this column imagined the history of Europe from the vantage point of June 2021. It envisioned that Brexit had happened and that it triggered the break-up of the EU. That, in turn, led to an exodus of jobs from Ireland as companies that used this country as a base to service the single market had left.

This gloomy vision of how this country and continent would evolve in the medium term was something akin to a worst-case scenario. But in some ways it was not pessimistic enough. It did not consider the wide-ranging consequences of two major changes that took place shortly thereafter in two of the three countries that really count for democratic Europe.

The election of Donald Trump and the aftermath of the failed coup in Turkey in July have made Europe's external environment much more challenging, and even threatening. These events have changed for the worse how both countries interact with Europe and the wider world. This comes on top of the continuing and almost weekly deterioration in relations with Russia, the third of democratic Europe's most important interlocutors.

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