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The ‘new Europe’ isn’t ready for the far right, but should have been expecting it

With the election of a firebrand libertarian in Holland and Le Pen within shot of the Elysee Palace, Ben Judah, author of New Europe, considers how the UK could soon look like a liberal outlier..

Sunday 26 November 2023 06:30 GMT
Geert Wilders scored an unexpected victory in the Netherlands after campaigning against an ‘asylum tsunami’
Geert Wilders scored an unexpected victory in the Netherlands after campaigning against an ‘asylum tsunami’ (Reuters)

Sadly nobody would dispute that Britain, since the Brexit referendum, has become a more inward-looking place. European politics has become a place apart. But this doesn’t just apply to Conservatives. The shock and befuddlement of British liberals at the election results in the Netherlands – which saw the far right led by Geert Wilders score a historic win – is part of this. Consumed by culture wars that started in 2016, the UK as a whole has missed the EU’s own anti-migrant turn.

From Wilders’s party, campaigning against an “asylum tsunami”, clinching the top spot in the Netherlands, to the anti-migrant bus-burning and mass violence which erupted in the heart of Dublin this week, not to mention polling surges for the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) and Marine Le Pen’s party in France, politics across the continent is reacting to historic levels of migration – which the far right has capitalised on.

In 2022, nearly a million asylum seekers arrived in the EU, Switzerland and Norway, on top of some four million Ukrainians who had already sought safety there. Asylum requests in the EU have soared 38 per cent since 2019, nearing heights of 2015-2016, when the European press last spoke of a “migration crisis”. These numbers are alarming European leaders, not only because they suggest that none of the measures put in place in 2016 proved sufficient, but because they are alarming European voters.

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