Charlemagne: The squeezed middle

SURVEY the fractured political landscape of Europe’s bigger countries and some similarities are easy to spot. In Germany, France and Britain right-wing insurgent parties are nipping at the heels of governments, denouncing them as has-beens trafficking in cant and doublespeak. They are riding high in polls and bewitching the media. Their prescriptions vary, but on matters such as immigration and membership of the euro and the European Union, they claim a unique ability to speak the unvarnished truth to voters jaded by the old politics. And although they focus more on national than on European politics, their strength is narrowing governments’ policy options within the EU.In Britain Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), which supports withdrawal from the EU, has just won its first parliamentary election (see page 31); it may nab a few more seats in next May’s general election. David Cameron, the prime minister, has already promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, but he is said to be on the verge of lobbing more Eurosceptic meat to restive Conservative backbenchers. Some want explicit curbs on freedom of movement within the EU; that, to put it mildly…

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