What is happening to the populist EUphobe anti-immigrant right in Europe? A few years ago their leader, Jorg Haider, entered a coalition government and the party came close to winning the Austrian presidency on a Priti Patel type platform of antagonism towards migrants and refugees. Something similar happened last month in Italy, where Matteo Salvini was crunched by voters in regions like Tuscany which he claimed he would win. He walked out of the Italian government earlier this year hoping to provoke new elections as a springboard to power. This flopped as the centre-left Partito Democratico formed an alliance with the populist 5 Star Movement and installed a solid government that has guided Italy through the Covid crisis. Since , the SVP had been gaining in seats and votes and became the biggest party in Switzerland entering the federal cabinet. For the last decade, academics and journalists have been in thrall to the idea that a new form of nationalist, populist identity politics was about to conquer Europe. But it does appear to be stopping. Three reasons: Brexit ; Trump; Covid. The rest of Europe looks with amazement on the crisis Brexit has caused in Britain. Europeans can see the flight of business from the City or the threat of hormone-altered meat and chlorine-washed poultry arriving in UK supermarkets and shudder. The nationalist anti-immigrant populists have also suffered from their identification with Trump. They grandly announced they would conquer the European Parliament. In fact, the big winner of that election were the Greens who are likely to enter the German federal government next year as the AfD fades. Other than Boris Johnson, there is not a single EU leader who wants to get close to him. If Joe Biden wins, the patron of European rightist populism will be finished and make even less attractive the appeal of European anti-immigrant nationalism. The third factor was Covid. Swiftly, the EU moved to dump its liberal economic orthodoxy and announced the biggest programme of government borrowing and solidarity transfers between EU economies who have profited from the single currency and those with poorer populations who have struggled. In Spain, the Franco nostalgics of Vox have linked with rightwing libertarians — Hispanic Claire Foxes — to demand an end to government measures aimed at controlling the pandemic. But most Spanish citizens like most Europeans accept that strong, organised, properly funded government measures to serve the national interest cannot be replaced by profit-maximising private firms who owe no loyalty to the nation or its people. There is renewed interest in fair taxes on the digi-giants, on eco taxes and asking the super-rich to pay a share. The decline of the Brexit-Trump nationalist right is little consolation for nostalgics in traditional social democratic parties or for the liberal left. The left has a future in Europe but will not regain its 20th century hegemony. Twenty-first century democracies will be run by coalitions of parties and interests. But at least the spirit of , when Brexit, Trump, Salvini and Le Pen seemed to be the shape of future politics, now seems long in the past. He writes on European policy and politics. Already have an account? Log in here. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles. You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium.
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