This interview was conducted with Dr. Zoltan Vörös from Pécs University, Department of Political Science and International Relations on “English Nationalism and Brexit”.
1) What were the most prominent reasons behind the historical background of Brexit?
I think the reasons can be connected to history and political culture. British people, with still having their glorious past in their minds, believe that the Kingdom is destined for global leadership. The European reality and their reality within that on the other hand was far from a global dominance – on the contrary, the EU is declining, at least on the global political level. They still hope, and actually many acting politicians say, that Britain can be big through their former Empire, the Commonwealth.
2) How much of a part nationalist and conservative politics played a role in Brexit?
I don’t know that much about the internal political life, but Brexit can be traced back to greedy politicians: Nigel Farage, who as a populist, started to criticize the EU in Brussels and who set up a Brexit party; and that time PM David Cameron who promised a referendum just to strengthen his position within the Parliament. From that moment obviously, the nationalist opinions dominated the campaign for leaving, but we could see the whole campaign was put together in a manipulative, but successful way.
3) Do you think voters of Brexit will achieve their nationalistic goals, such as keeping the state sovereign?
The voters of Brexit, at least the majority of them will never face the consequences, or will not be able to connect the dots. If there will be mistakes, the political elite will not be that crazy to blame Brexit which eventually was pushed through by them. State sovereignty: they can keep that when it is about the integrity of the whole Kingdom. Elections coming in Scotland with the SNP heavily campaigning for the EU, Northern Ireland was pushed towards Ireland with Brexit. The upcoming years are going to be busy for the UK.
4) Do you think the UK’s geopolitical stance (geographically being isolated as an island) played a role in Brexit?
All in all, I have to say, yes. From the beginning, since their membership, they were the ones always criticizing the Community. How they are driving on the other side of the road, using different metric systems, that was and is embedded in their mindsets. So the fact that they are somehow separated from Europe, is coming from geography. But not only coming from geography, if we look at Ireland, they do not have similar approaches, though they are even further away from the mainland. So geography, paired with political culture and glorious history, led to criticism.
5) How did Euroscepticism begin?
With the creation of the Community. In the beginning there were already critical voices and we cannot say that the history of the Community is a pure success story. Many challenges, critical years and periods were there, but together these European countries could overcome these issues. From this perspective, this stalling moment will again be followed by a further deepening, a more close cooperation. And since closer cooperation means (and meant throughout history) a bigger control over the countries and less autonomy, the critical voices are there.
6) What about Hungary? Do you think Euroscepticism will rise in Hungary further? Can we imagine a Hungarian departure from the Union?
I don’t see that, that it will further rise, I think we have reached the maximum limit, altogether if you look at the society, we are still more towards a pro-European approach. But there is a saying as: never say never. We can see that there are political forces, who say, the vaccines which are already coming through the EU are not sufficient and that is the fault of the EU, but according to the polls, popularity of the government is declining. So the economic consequences of the pandemic are not connected to the EU, but to the government. On the other hand, we can never say never, but eventually I think, that would destroy our economy and I don’t see a successful path for an independent Hungary.
7) Do you think Euroscepticism will bring an end to the EU?
I hope not. Eventually, if you are looking at different reports, there are still more who favor the EU, than those who oppose. I think we simply cannot go back to where we were, for two reasons: first, it was the Second World War; second, because we are already too connected to each other, and Brexit just highlighted: leaving the Community behind is much more difficult than it was expected, and they were not hoping for a joyride. But one thing is for sure: the Community has to start answering those challenging questions which are around the Union in order to strengthen the EU – and within this uncertain global climate, plus the pandemic, it is not an easy job.
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