EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy

  • Rather than acquiescing to the reckless impulses of populist politicians eager to capitalize upon the mess that is Brexit, Czech leaders should resort to common sense and urge patience and restraint.
  • Contrary to what populists would like to purport, support for the EU is rising in several countries following Brexit, including Denmark who is traditionally Eurosceptic.
  • The Czech Republic – like many other EU countries – suffer from a crisis of leadership, paving the way for populist demagoguery. When will real, visionary leadership emerge in the Czech Republic?

Brexit turned out as disastrously as predicted by pretty much anyone not suffering from acute anxiety disorder; the economy is estimated to enter recession, foreign investments have slowed down to a trickle, regional development is in tatter, the NHS in shambles. All in the name of “taking back control” of the country. Allegedly from the EU. One has to wonder what the price of “control” – what control exactly? – is worth when it means such a profound national devolution. So far, the Brits ostensibly do not seem to know themselves, stumbling uncertainly and half-heartedly towards figuring out how to trigger Article 50, realization dawning that they are facing a Sisyphean task of making the best out of the mess they brought themselves into.

Nevertheless, the referendum result predictably baited out the usual menagerie of populist politicians across Europe, including Czech populists eager to capitalize on what was assumed to be an excellent opportunity for domestic power gains by calling for Czexit. The almost Pavlovian knee-jerk reaction from said politicians, whose crowning achievements in recent years have ranged from miraculously being able to stand upright despite copious alcohol consumption to serving mediocre goulasch at pseudo-fascist demonstrations, was predictable and quickly dismissed due to how ludicrous it is.

The Czech Republic receives far more money from the EU than it contributes; the EU’s regional development aid is greatly beneficial to several regions. The list goes on. The fact is that the Czech Republic gains massively from EU membership, both tangible and intangible benefits. It belongs in the EU as a valuable member.

However, this seems of little concern to certain leaders of this country, who seem all too eager to write the obituary of the country’s EU-membership (and the EU itself) by gambling with the prosperity, stability and safety of their citizens through advocating for a nonsensical Czexit referendum on the pretext of listening to vox populi. All too often, references are made to other countries’ sentiments in an almost feverish attempt to legitimize these ramblings, whose only purpose is domestic political gain.
However, rumors of the EU’s imminent demise, at least in some countries, is wildly exaggerated; In Denmark, only 33% want a referendum after seeing the immediate consequences of Brexit – before it was 42%. As for what Danes would vote in a hypothetical referendum, 61% would vote remain while 28% would vote leave, the rest being undecided. This is a 6% rise in remain votes and an 8% fall in leave votes compared to pre-Brexit. And Denmark has historically always been quite Eurosceptic. In several Eastern European countries, support for EU membership has similarly surged.

When will real leadership emerge in the Czech Republic?

So far the case of remaining in the EU has been only vaguely touted by leaders across Europe, the Czech Republic included, in an almost non-committed manner. Nobody is making a genuinely passionate case for pooling our strength together, developing the frameworks necessary for solving the crises haunting the continent and the Union, and opposing the populists who are chronically unable to present any solution whatsoever. However, due to an impotent or in some cases even openly biased media suffering from a chronic disability to ask critical questions to pointless symbolic political initiatives, strong visionary leadership faces grim prospects of harsh opposition by people who desperately wants the world to be black and white even though it’s shades of grey. However, despite the grim odds, it is a fight that must be fought and from which true leaders would not shirk. Despite suffering setbacks, there is still a far more compelling case to be made for EU membership than from leaving it. Hopefully someone will take up that mantle – or at least encourage keeping a level head and not engage in impulsive referendums.
Patience and reason are virtues leaders should embody

With all indications pointing towards Brexit being an unequivocal national disaster for Britain, sensible leaders across the EU would adopt a “wait and see”-position rather than engage in the current Lemming-behavior of seeing who can most spectacularly imitate the British and mindlessly plunge their country into the abyss. Brexit provides everybody with a unique opportunity to empirically gauge the consequences of leaving the EU.

Rather than impulsive knee-jerk reactions by opportunistic populist so-called ‘leaders’, the responsible thing – towards the population – would be to wait and evaluate the consequences of Brexit over a 5–15 year period. Considering the prospects of Brexit – economic slow-down, foreign investment holding off due to uncertainty, a NHS on the brink of collapse, poor regions losing financial aid – it is the only sensible path.

Or are we really in such a hurry to jeopardize all of the above for the sake of an intangible sense of “control” by leaving the EU? If we are, we should at the very least demand strong, fully financed visions that benefit or, at the very least, is not detrimental to their populations, rather than the lack of vision and blatant falsehoods that characterized the Brexit campaign. However, I doubt any Czexit advocate would be able to do that, and I fully expect the usual suspects to make whatever empty promises necessary to maximize their personal gain – as always.

Christian Kvorning Lassen



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