Referenda for All
A Vote of Their Very Own

Much of Europe is looking at the Brexit referedum and saying, “I want one too!” reports:

Some 53 percent of French respondents to a survey conducted by the University of Edinburgh said they should also have a vote, with 44 percent saying they would vote to stay in if one was held, against 33 percent who would leave.

The “View from the Continent” study polled 8,002 respondents across Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Ireland and Sweden about their views on Britain’s EU membership, which will be decided at a referendum on June 23rd, and the possibility of holding a similar vote themselves.

In Sweden, Germany and Spain, more respondents were in favour of holding a referendum than against, but not an absolute majority when those who were undecided were taken into account.

Only in Poland and Ireland did an absolute majority not want a vote.

As the poll also shows, though, once granted a vote, large majorities of many of these countries would want to stay in. So why the referendum request? The Brexit vote was preceded by a renegotiation of status with Brussels and—as the rest of Europe sees it—the granting of special favors. So if you’re a European voter, why not threaten to leave and then exact some concessions?

This is something that Brussels has feared from the start of the British negotiations: a rolling, never-ending string of referenda. Now it seems that at least the political preconditions for it in many nations are there. Will any French, Spanish, or Swedish politicians take advantage?

If they do, a large range of outcomes are possible. The optimistic case: this process could produce a progressive loosening of the European rules, mixed with popular approval, resulting in an EU that was closer to providing what the peoples of Europe want and more possessed of popular legitimacy. But the dark side: Brussels may have hit the sour spot, where it granted just enough to Britain to encourage other national aspirations, but not enough to keep the Brits in. Either way, we don’t expect this to be the last post on referendum-chicken.

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