(Note update to explain German political parties)
2017 is probably the year that the EU starts to collapse. First off there will be the beginning of the serious Brexit negotiations after the UK pulls the trigger on the Article 50 process. Based on the announced postures of the EU leadership and chancellor Merkel, this is not going to be an amicable divorce. In fact I’m fairly sure they will try to be as unpleasant as possible so as to discourage others from also heading to the exits. It is unlikely that this will work because the stresses on countries like Italy are such that even a bad deal to leave the EU looks better than staying in.

There are elections in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and, IIRC, Greece this year. Without a doubt the French elections are going to have the potential for the first earthquake. Right now we have some non-entity as the front runner for the socialists (such a non-entity that I can’t remember who he is), Francois Fillon for the mainstream right and Marine Le Pen for the Front National (aka the Fascists – though I personally think Peronists may be more accurate).

Fillon is promising a Thatcherite revolution if he wins and France desperately needs one. But the blessed St Margaret and her ideas of smaller government have been vilified by the French establishment for 30 years or more so Fillon has an uphill struggle. It seems highly likely that he and Le Pen will be in the run off and unlike last time a Le Pen was in the run off and the lefty parties preferred crooked Chirac to fascist Le Pen (votez l’escroc pas fasco) this time they may prefer Le Pen’s “make France great again” statist nationalism to Fillon’s proposed radical “liberalism”.

This will be bad for the EU because Le Pen has promised Frexit if she wins. If France joins the UK in heading for the exits the EU becomes, essentially, greater Germany and German rigidity is not popular in the southern parts of the EU so we can expect the southern EU members to also look at leaving. For Greece and Italy in particular this may well happen anyway because both countries’ economies have been stuffed by the Euro and the resulting inability to devalue their currency and get back some export advantage. They also, not without reason, believe the last eight years of German enforced austerity have wrecked their economies anyway.

There is also the bubbling migration/refugee crisis. For some reason the regular working (or unemployed) stiffs aren’t enthused by millions of Africans and Arabs looking for handouts. Even if the nationalist parties don’t take power in elections they are likely to become the official opposition and a persistent and loud thorn in the side of the mostly pro-EU governing parties. I expect both Germany and the Netherlands to end up with large nationalist representation in their parliaments and this is sure to complicate the forming of governments.

Germany in particular is likely to see a splitting of the long established CSU/CDU alliance. The CSU (from Bavaria) is already making noises about its unhappiness with recent immigration and they may well continue to be noisy so as to stop AfD making inroads in Bavaria. Given that Merkel rules the CDU that option isn’t realistically available to the CDU and so I expect AfD to gain a significant number of votes and seats in the rest of Germany. I doubt AfD or even AfD plus the CSU will be able to form a government, but they may end up being the opposition to a grand CDU/SPD coalition. No matter what exactly happens, it’s clear that Merkel and her CDU will be focused on internal German polls and politics for much of the year which means Merkel’s interventions in the larger EU are going to be calibrated on how well the play back in Germany rather than how well they play in the EU as a whole. Given the widespread belief that Germany is unfairly forcing its ideas on the rest of the Eurozone this is likely to exacerbate leave tendencies elsewhere.

[Update: Quick and dirty guide to German political parties.

  • CDU – Christian Democrat Union, the party of Chancelloer Merkel
  • CSU – Christian Socialist Union, the more or less permanent ruling party in Bavaria and hitherto ally of the CDU the the federal level
  • AfD – Alternative für Deutschland, the new anti-immigrant etc. party
  • SPD – Socialist Party of Germany, the center left party, currently in the government coalition with the CDU/CSU

]

In the Netherlands Geert Wilders, who is likely to win a plurality of the votes but not a majority, is a Euroskeptic as well as a nationalist. Almost certainly he’ll be kept out of government by the rest of the parties forming a grand coalition, but as with AfD in Germany, his influence is likely to force other Dutch politicians to focus inwards and quite probably become a lot more Euroskeptic in an attempt to stem losses in his direction.

And then there’s President Trump, who may well want to see a UK-US trade deal as proof of his administrations ability to strike deals and the like.

All in all the EU is likely to find a lot of politicians who find it a good thing to kick and very few who see any reason to protect it. This is a problem because the EU has utterly failed to endear itself to its citizens over the last 40 years. True people quite like the free trade and free movement bits but the rest of it fails to inspire. Moreover voters aren’t total idiots. If the Brexit talks stall, which they probably will, voters in the rest of Europe are likely to correctly perceive that the reason for this is that the EU wants to make countries that leave suffer. In Eastern Europe that’s going to remind them of the Soviet Union and the iron curtain.

All of this ought to be obvious to the EU Federasts but I’m fairly sure they still believe a combination of threats, blackmail and menaces will keep their restive populations in line because this has worked in all previous cases. The problem is that Brexit just showed that this is not the case.

Unio Europaea Delenda Est