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Ever since the UK’s historic EU referendum vote in 2016, countries in Europe have threatened to leave. Brexit appeared to have a domino effect on the continent, with several states going through a spike of discontent with Brussels. Even before the vote, unhappiness with Brussels was rife.
An early 2016 poll revealed that a majority of voters in Sweden wanted out of the EU if the UK voted for it.
Respondents to the University of Edinburgh survey in other countries found a similar sentiment: In Spain, 47 percent of those asked favoured a referendum, in Germany, 46 percent, in France, 53 percent – the highest yet.
And while this feeling slowly diminished as the Brexit process slogged on, one Dutch lawmaker said the EU still fears other countries will uproot and pursue independence.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, said the bloc did not want to help realise that anxiety.
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Speaking to CNBC in 2019, Mr Wilders explained: “It started long ago.
“Mrs May, as you remember, was against Brexit.
“So, the negotiations started with a Prime Minister who herself was against Brexit, and I believe that’s a very bad start.
“On the other hand you had the European Union.
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“The EU really does not want one of the children to leave the house, they do not want that.
“They are afraid that, if they allow it, maybe another country would follow.
“Maybe Italy, Holland, France – whatever country that thinks, ‘Well, it might not be such a bad idea: the US saying we will have a lot of trade agreements.’
“I believe that from the European part – I’m sure Britain has so far made a mess of it – but also from the EU, there was no incentive to get a good deal.
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“They wanted to make an example to any country in Europe that if you try to leave, it will be a mess.
“So it’s a big disincentive to leave the EU.”
His idea that the EU has a hold over member states, unwilling to allow their freedom, is one that has been shared by other political figures.
In 1988, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave a damning speech to the College of Europe.
In what was then known as the European Community, Mrs Thatcher boldly compared the bloc’s financial reforms to those of the Soviet Union.
She said: “It is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction.
“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.
“Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose.
“But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country: for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries.”
Almost 30 years later, during the campaign to leave the EU, many evoked similar indignation at the bloc’s perceived control over the UK.
In a piece for Express.co.uk, Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party – now called Reform UK – said the EU was “controlling” its borders.
He wrote: “The only way Britain will ever again be able to control our borders and have the ability to limit the numbers of those coming in from Eastern European countries, is if we leave the European Union.”
The border issue is something many other European countries like France share.
Yet, even France’s most radical party, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, admitted that it no longer wishes to take France out of the EU.
Instead, Ms Le Pen backtracked on her initial demand, and said she wanted to “revise” France’s position in the bloc, not remove it.
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