We must seize the opportunity of the Brexit negotiations to reform the European Union. The fact that populists such as Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders have not managed to rise to power does not mean that citizens do not want change, MEPs said on Wednesday in a topical debate in the Strasbourg hemicycle.
“There is one mistake we cannot allow ourselves to make: to think that the war is over and that populism and nationalism have been defeated once and for all.” According to liberal group leader, Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit has created a shock wave in Europe and most Europeans do not want to leave the EU, but they continue to be very critical of the EU.”
Millions of Britons, French and Dutch have also voted “anti-Europe” since last year, noted the eurosceptic, Raffaele Fitto (ECR). “We must dare to look at ourselves in the mirror. We want change and clear answers to their concerns. We must seize the Brexit negotiations as an opportunity and ask ourselves where we want to go. The ECR calls for more flexibility and a more important role for national parliaments.
The Greens and the radical left also drew lessons from the Brexit and the (relative) success of populist and anti-European politicians. They argue for a fairer and more social Europe.
The only one offering a different opinion is the leader of the EPP group. According to Manfred Weber, populism has been beaten, and a “a wind of change of which we must harvest the fruits” is blowing through Europe. His compatriot Reinhard Bütikofer (Grünen) took it directly to Twitter: “To celebrate victory is premature, many changes are still necessary in Europe”.