The Far-Right Xenophobia Behind Britain’s Decision To Leave The E.U.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, celebrates and poses for photographers as he leaves a “Leave.EU” organization party for the British European Union membership referendum in London, Friday, June 24, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT DUNHAM
Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, celebrates and poses for photographers as he leaves a “Leave.EU” organization party for the British European Union membership referendum in London, Friday, June 24, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT DUNHAM

The U.K. voted to leave the European Union on Thursday — the first time a member state has chosen to do so — a win for the far-right in the U.K. who had campaigned for leaving the E.U. with the slogan “take control.” The vote, which came as a huge shock, has been met with praise by far-right politicians across the world, and points to the further rise of the far-right across Europe.

As ThinkProgress has previously reported, while those who supported leaving the E.U. often said it would lead to greater control over the U.K. economy, fear-mongering about immigration was prominent throughout the debate. The rhetoric of the Leave campaign and the rhetoric of the far-right in the U.K. was often one and the same when it comes to xenophobia. The far-right British National Party warned that if Britain remained in the E.U., they would have to grapple with “an almost limitless number of Middle Easterners and Muslims” pouring in through Turkey, for example, and the official Leave campaign made similar points about the dangers of the U.K. remaining in the union if Turkey joins.

The hateful rhetoric also included crass warnings about Islamic extremism after the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida and campaign posters that resembled anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda from the 1930s, and likely contributed to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was a vocal advocate of immigration and the benefits of diversity, by a white supremacist.

The Euroskeptic, far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nigel Farage have played a large part in stoking these fears — and as a result, the party has seen a serious rise over the last 10 years. In the 2015 election, the party received over 3.8 million votes, making it the third largest party after the Labour and Conservative parties. The vote was also a 9.5 percent increase from the 2010 election, the greatest increase of any major party in the country.


The victory for UKIP and Brexit supporters has been met with praise by the far-right in other parts of Europe as well — reflecting the unmistakable rise of the far-right more generally.

The vote to leave the E.U. was praised by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party — which has long been anti-euro and anti-immigration, at one point even calling for the police to shoot refugees entering the country. AfD leader Frauke Petry tweeted that “the time is ripe for a new Europe.”

Beatrix von Storch, also a member of the AfD party, similarly praised the U.K.’s Independence Day and called for the resignation of European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. “The European Union has failed as a political union,” she said.

Germany, which has had an open-border policy for refugees fleeing war and persecution, has recently seen an increase in hate crimes against refugees, which German authorities are failing to investigate. This has likely fueled the rise of the AfD and the far-right in the country.


“Victory for freedom!” tweeted Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, another anti-E.U. and anti-immigration party. “We should now have the same referendum in France and other E.U. countries.” Le Pen also changed her Twitter profile to the Union Jack on Friday.

Last week, Le Pen told a gathering of far-right parties in Vienna that “France has possibly 1,000 more reasons to want to leave the E.U. than the English” and said the E.U. was responsible for high unemployment and failing to keep out “smugglers, terrorists and economic migrants,” according to he BBC.

Marion Marechal Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s niece, and Florian Philippot, the National Front’s vice president, also congratulated the U.K. and called for a similar vote in France.

In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing Lega Nord, praised “the courage of free citizens” on Friday and said, “Thanks U.K., now it’s our turn.” Lega Nord has been vocal in its calls for abandoning the euro and the European Union and has made no secret of its anti-immigration and anti-Islam platform.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the leader of the right-wing Party of Freedom, congratulated the U.K. on its “Independence Day” in a statement on his website. “The Europhile elite has been defeated. Britain points Europe the way to the future and to liberation. It is time for a new start, relying on our own strength and sovereignty,” the statement noted, before calling for a similar referendum in the Netherlands. “We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy. If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide.” Wilders, who has said he hates Islam and wants the “fascist Koran banned,” is leading in some polls for the Dutch general election in March 2017.


Outside of Europe, the U.K.’s decision to leave has also been praised by presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump — and you probably don’t need to be told just how terrifying the rise of a xenophobic, bigoted, and racist candidate like him is.

The U.K. Voted To Leave The European Union. What Happens Next?World by CREDIT: Mary Turner/Pool via AP The U.K. voted to leave the European Union by a vote of 51.9 percent on…