By: Tim Maverick, Senior Correspondent
Politicians launching personal attacks on each other…
A politician with funny hair railing against Muslim immigration…
Other politicians want to build literal barriers to prevent the flow of immigrants.
This is the Republican primary in the United States, right?
There isn’t a Trump to be found in this case.
Instead, I’m talking about the current merry-go-round in the not-so-well-named European Union.
Europe is seeing the rise of many nationalist politicians – such as Marine le Pen in France, and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders (the guy with the funny hair).
Europe is falling apart at the seams politically. No country is happy with the state of the Union right now.
At the top of the list, of course, is Britain.
The “Brexit Effect” on Europe
With the recent rise of Euro-scepticism in Britain, the country will hold a referendum in June on whether to leave the EU.
And, as ably covered by my colleague Martin Hutchinson and others, there will be a number of effects on Britain itself.
But what about the effects on continental Europe?
– Military: One obvious effect will be on Europe’s military operations. Britain has by far the best military in the European Union. The French military is pretty decent. Germany and Italy aren’t bad either. But the rest are a joke. I’m sure Putin will notice.
– Economy: As the second-largest economy in the EU, the consequences of Britain leaving the union will be keenly felt.
– Trade: Britain and the EU need each other in this regard. A study by John Springford of the Center for European Reform think-tank, concluded that Britain’s trade with the EU is 55% higher than it would have been, had it stayed outside the EU.
On the other end, Britain is the third-largest export market for Germany. And 32% of Irish exports go to Britain.
These effects, however, pale in significance when one looks at the big picture.
The Real Danger: EurExit
There’s no doubt that some politicians and citizens of other EU countries are looking at Britain rather enviously, wishing that they could also have a referendum on their own EU membership.
Indeed, the real danger is a domino effect, whereby pressure mounts and other countries decide to follow Britain’s lead.
This is a very real possibility.
Populism is rising in Europe, just as it is here in the United States. And populist politicians are already striking a real chord with like-minded voters – mainly due to the refugee crisis and the sluggish European economy.
For example, Marine le Pen’s French National Front is demanding EU reforms be put to a referendum.
And the aforementioned Geert Wilders of the far right Freedom Party in the Netherlands says that if he becomes Prime Minister, he’ll push for an exit from the EU. The Dutch general election is next March – and his party has led in the polls for months.
You see the consequences of this? The very fabric of the EU is under threat.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see other Eurosceptic parties across the continent be emboldened if Britain votes for a Brexit.
Poland and Hungary jump to mind, too. Their governments are now led by strong nationalists that are even clamping down on media. And in Slovakia, the ruling party lost the election and the far right-wing (including the Neo-Nazis) have gained strength.
Other countries that might look for the “EurExit” are the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden.
However, there’s one big thing that may hold back the Eastern European countries from leaving the EU – they all receive billions in development funds from the EU.
Money talks, as they say. And it talks pretty loudly here.
As Britain Goes, So Goes… Denmark
Aside from Britain, perhaps no other country is worth watching here more than Denmark.
In last year’s general election, the Danish People’s Party – a right-wing, populist party – finished second in the vote, thanks to its anti-EU policy.
Like Britain, it’s talking about negotiating a new deal for Denmark with the EU.
Denmark has strong traditional ties to Britain. In fact, it waited to enter the EU until Britain did. So it’s likely to be influenced by what Britain does in June. If Britain votes to leave, chances are, Denmark could push for it, too.
I urge you to keep a close eye on the Brexit vote in June. It’s more important than most people realize right now.
Britain could end up being the thread that unravels all of Europe.
Tim Maverick boasts decades of experience in the investment world. He spent 20 years at a major brokerage firm as a trading supervisor and broker working directly with clients. He also wrote the daily market update for the firm’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Tim has been writing for financial publications for the past 10 years. Before joining Wall Street Daily, he wrote for Tim Seymour's (CNBC) Emerging Money, Tom Lydon's ETF Trends, Commodity HQ, Money Morning, Investment U, and Wyatt Investment Research. With Tim's experience working with retail investors, he's particularly adept at helping everyday investors understand the financial markets. Follow Tim on twitter@TimMaverickWSD.