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'Dexit' talk reflects EU's loss of stature

China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-25 07:34

Alice Weidel, co-leader of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), attends a plenum session of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Jan 18, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

According to foreign media reports, Alice Weidel, leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, stated in an interview that if her party comes to power, it will push for a "Dexit" — Germany's withdrawal from the European Union — referendum. Weidel acknowledges that the AfD could not possibly come to power before 2029, but she also believes that her party gaining a position in government is inevitable.

In 2019, the AfD issued a public declaration stating that if the EU does not reform within a reasonable time, Germany must leave the EU. This despite Brexit being highly damaging to the United Kingdom's economy.

But on this issue, the AfD is not much different from other right-wing and far-right parties in Europe. Right-wing parties across Europe generally argue that the EU, being an unelected institution, lacks legitimacy but still wields political and economic power over sovereign nations, constituting a form of neo-imperialism.

The UK has a historical tradition of "splendid isolation" and regards itself as "exceptional" in Europe. This is among the reasons that led to the Brexit referendum during David Cameron's term as prime minister in 2016.

Germany, to the contrary, has been a linchpin of European integration and led the bloc in overcoming the eurozone crisis in the years following 2009, but it paid high economic costs for that, which has become a particularly sensitive issue with the economic downturn today. This sensitivity has emboldened the AfD to challenge the political taboo of not "leaving the EU", and the calls for "Dexit" are growing louder as Germany's political landscape is tending toward fragmentation.

The Christian Democratic Union is now the largest party, but its voice is scarcely heard on the political stage. The Red-Green ruling coalition holds administrative resources, but its support is diminishing. The AfD has a high tone, but apart from a rapid rise in various parliamentary levels, it has yet to secure a position within the government system.

Similar situations exist in countries with a significant rise in right-wing forces, such as France, Italy, Austria and Sweden. Although some parties in the countries advocate leaving the EU or the eurozone, they struggle to find middle-ground forces as allies, and lack operational advantages. The political, economic and social turmoil in the UK after Brexit is also a reminder to other countries advocating a similar "exit" about the high price that will likely need to be paid. Therefore, at least in the foreseeable future, "Dexit" seems set to be a soundbite rather than a political agenda.


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