Pointing towards Eurosceptic contagion across the European Union (EU), the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic yesterday warned that a referendum vote for Britain to leave would encourage debate in his country as to whether they should follow suit.
Bohuslav Sobotka (pictured), the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister and leader of the centre-left Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), said that if a Brexit prompted a similar move in his country it may have the undesired consequence of returning Czechs to Russia’s sphere of influence.
Czech news agency ČTK reports Mr. Sobotka saying:
“The consequences [of Brexit] could really be tremendous. Debates about leaving the EU could be expected in this country in a few years, too, if Britain left the EU.”
Mr. Sobotka has previously warned of surges in nationalism and separatism that risk spreading across Europe. Having joined in 2004, he now says that he and his CSSD colleagues must be ready to explain to voters why the Czech Republic should stay in the EU, claiming that there are several major arguments in support of membership.
Czechs are beneficiaries of billions in EU development funds, but Mr. Sobotka specifically referred to an economic and security deficit which he believes would follow withdrawal. Warning that the Czech Republic would once more fall under Russia’s influence he added:
“It would be an absolute negation of the developments since [the fall of the communist regime in] 1989.”
European leaders reportedly fear that irrespective of the result, Britain’s referendum may trigger copy-cat referendums from national leaders looking to extract special concessions from Brussels.
The Czech Republic may be particularly susceptible to such an event, reports the Daily Telegraph, as 62 per cent of Czechs said they would vote against EU membership it in a referendum, according to an October 2015 poll by the STEM agency. This followed anger generated by Brussels when last year it forced the country to take in a quota of migrants.
Already Breitbart London has reported that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán this afternoon announced a national referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant resettlement quotas, the first time they have been challenged in this way.
As such, concerns in Brussels that the combined effects of Brexit, the migrant crisis and economic troubles in the eurozone may mean 2016 will end up being the high-water mark of European integration.