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What other countries are thinking of leaving the EU and why?

People fear that Brexit could herald the beginning of a European Union split – but how likely is that?

Geert Wilders, of Netherlands' far-right party.
Geert Wilders, of Netherlands' far-right party.
Image: Associated Press

When Britain voted to leave the European Union in June of this year, it took us all by surprise.

That marginal majority has been the topic of many a debate; around the future of Europe, its influence on recovering economies, and of course, the impact it will have on Ireland’s links with Britain.

But what are other countries’ views in the aftermath of Brexit, and how strong is the will for a vote on leaving the European Union?

Although figures collected by the PewResearchCenter suggests that an overwhelming majority of EU citizens believe that Brexit will be a bad thing, when you delve a little deeper into their opinion of the EU, there is clear uncertainty around its future.

PewResearch Center Brexit & EU

France

In many ways, France and Britain are very similar: both are involved in similar missions abroad, both are hugely influential in the EU, and both have a high number of Eurosceptic politicians.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National party, has become even more vocal in her calls for a French referendum on EU membership – even more so now since the “promised apocalypse” that economists and politicians predicted as a result of Brexit, “has not come”:

It’s not just politicians from the far right who want a referendum, however.

Before Britain’s vote on EU membership, France were the country with the highest support of a Brexit result, showing that there is also an appetite among the electorate for a referendum.

Recent surveys conducted before the Brexit vote show that 52% of the French electorate are in favour of their country staying in the EU – so a referendum held on the subject would be close.

And with the country’s recent terrorist attacks and the current burkini debate, there is no doubt that immigration will be debated just as hotly as it was in the UK.

EU membership needs Source: A View From the Continent Report

Sweden

“I see nothing negative about leaving this supranational European Union,” said Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

Åkesson has repeatedly called for Sweden to “become a sovereign state again” by leaving the EU, and although the majority of his party seem to show a preference of keeping its ties with Europe, this could change if the EU were to impose any new regulations that didn’t agree with the Sweden Democrats’ way of thinking.

It’s also worth noting that Åkesson’s party holds the balance of power in Stockholm; and while they hold only 20% of the electorate’s support, their party has grown hugely last year after Sweden took in a record number of asylum seekers.

Brexit Eurosceptic

Netherlands

As with Le Pen, there has been a huge surge in support for the far-right Dutch populist Geert Wilders and the Dutch Party for Freedom, which he founded and leads.

In a recent interview with Spiegel, Wilders said that the main reason for leaving the EU would be autonomy.

We’d finally get our national sovereignty back, as well as our autonomy in matters of monetary and immigration policy – just like Switzerland. That’s my favorite example: a country in the heart of Europe, that even has individual trade agreements with China and Japan. The British too – Germany’s third-largest trading partner – will reach an agreement with the EU.

A poll carried out in May of this year by the Ipsos foundation found a narrow majority of the Dutch do not want the Netherlands to hold a referendum on EU membership. It also showed that if there is a vote, 64% would vote against leaving the EU.

But as the British economy evens out after Brexit, the tide may change in favour of a vote to leave.

EU membership rates Source: PewResearchCenter

Although there are politicians in every EU country calling for a referendum on leaving the EU, they are almost always in a minority, and don’t represent the concerns or views of their respective electorates.

But as Europe moves on from this shock, and tries to form a path forward, countries will be scrutinising every decision made to make sure it’s the best one for them.

And if European governments and electorates disagree with future EU policies, such as the contentious free movement of people, that’s when there will be a reaction, which could lead to more results like the UK’s EU referendum.

Read: They call me MR BREXIT! Trump and Farage campaign together in Mississippi

Read: European leaders say the EU doesn’t need Britain

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