Far right gains momentum - Brexit is just the tip of a toxic iceberg

A theme in the recent TV biography of Taoiseach Enda Kenny was that he is one of the luckiest politicians of his generation.

That implausible Cool Hand Luke characterisation must bewilder his opponents, especially increasingly restless colleagues who wish him gone. It probably irks him as well, as it suggests that fortune has been disproportionately influential in his achievements. However, it is about to be reconfirmed in an unexpected way.

Mr Kenny resisted pressure to establish a ministry to deal with Brexit. Mr Kenny’s refusal may, in the fullness of time, be seen as inspired because Brexit is just one of many developments that may utterly change the EU and our relationship with our neighbours.

The most unattractive kind of mission creep would seem probable for the suggested Brexit ministry.

In just over two weeks — on December 4 — Italy votes in a referendum designed to make it easier for the government to pass legislation, but the vote seems to have assumed another purpose.

It may be another opportunity for angry, disenchanted citizens to give their government a good kicking. At the moment the polls (even if that pseudoscience is holed below the waterline) show the No vote narrowly ahead. Prime minister Matteo Renzi would be greatly weakened by defeat and, irony of ironies, an attempt to make parliament stronger might, in fact, achieve the very opposite.

Italian anger seems well founded. Mr Renzi, a staunch EU supporter, was rebuffed when he asked Brussels to ease fiscal rules, and again later, when he asked to be allow to bail out Italy’s broken banks. Unemployment among Italians under 30 is at a staggering 35%. Seven out of 10 Italians under 36 live with their parents and 100,000 educated Italians emigrated last year. These conditions hardly seem conducive to convincing the electorate to endorse the establishment position.

Should Mr Renzi’s government lose the vote, it will encourage those who believe Marine Le Pen can win the French presidency next May. French prime minister Manuel Valls has conceded that the far-right leader has a chance of winning, boosted by the momentum generated by Mr Trump’s victory.

A second vote is scheduled for December 4 — a re-run of the Austrian presidential election brought about by a court case. In the earlier vote in May, far-right candidate Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party of Austria topped the poll. He is expected to do so again, possibly with a bigger margin.

The Netherlands will hold parliamentary elections in March and the far-right Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, has released a one-page manifesto in which it says that all mosques, Islamic schools, and asylum centres will be closed, borders will be sealed with a blanket ban on migrants from Islamic countries; women will be forbidden from wearing a headscarf in public. The Koran will be banned too. These proposals, which make Donald Trump seem the very ideal of moderation, have not done anything to damage Mr Wilders’ strengthening position in opinion polls.

Brexit is, it seems, only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg, one that has the capacity to sink liberal, tolerant Europe.

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