Wednesday 16 October 2019

Editorial: 'Rise of anti-EU parties makes voting more vital than ever'

British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville


Today, EU and council elections create a political kaleidoscope which could determine the patterns of government in these islands and right across the continent.

A tilt to the left or right will determine the colours and contours of our future. At home, we also have the referendum on changing the divorce law.

There are also the three local plebiscites in the cities of Cork, Waterford and Limerick as to whether to directly elect mayors. All matter in that they will influence how we live our lives.

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On the micro level, the Government may expect a backlash over its poor performance in addressing the housing emergency.

People will always grumble and gripe about their government, but the only way to guarantee your voice is heard is to vote.

Abraham Lincoln put it nicely when he said: "Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."

However, we may have more than "blisters" to concern us in Europe.

In the UK we have witnessed chaos through following a rejectionist agenda into a cul de sac.

Without a clear plan, and unwilling to compromise, Brexit has produced a political earthquake.

Theresa May is unlikely to emerge from the rubble. One commentator has described how she has transformed No 10 Downing Street into her own personal panic room.

In Dublin and Brussels panic is not an option.

The support Europe has offered, especially the solidarity shown in avoiding a hard Border, has been invaluable. In coming months, that unity will be tested again.

Many Conservatives have convinced themselves Mrs May's successor can go to Brussels and, facing what is likely to be a new president and commission chief, demand a new deal.

Attempts by the UK to rewrite the Withdrawal Agreement or to test the resolve of the EU are inevitable.

But an international pact, signed off on with the EU, must be worth the paper it is written on.

While it may still be too bitter a truth to swallow for Tory grandees, it looks like being a choice between Mrs May's deal or no Brexit.

Yet the swing to the right in Europe is alarming. Right-wing leaders met in Milan for a rally recently. Among them were Marine Le Pen of France, Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom, and representatives from the Danish People's Party, the Finns Party, and the Alternative für Deutschland.

Most of them are linked to Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini's planned new right-wing parliamentary grouping, the European Alliance of Peoples and Nations.

Such a confluence could radically alter the balance in the EU Parliament.

Anti-EU parties could align to play havoc on trade and migration. For all of these reasons, the value of your vote - just like the political stakes - could scarcely be higher.

Irish Independent

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