The way to take on Orbán and Salvini is to point out the dangers they pose to everyday freedoms and the rule of law
While the British Brexit debate rages on, it continues to ignore entirely a more important European political battle: the search for the best way to defeat populists on the continent within the next eight months – the time left before the EU parliamentary elections. That little of this seems to get factored into internal British discourse is not surprising: for all the headlines about Theresa May’s “Salzburg humiliation” or “EU dirty rats”, Brexit is essentially the British talking to themselves.
Across the Channel, a new line of attack against Europe’s populists is taking shape: it focuses on breaches to democratic rule of law, rather than the issue of immigration. That’s why the most important piece of EU news this month was not the Salzburg situation (entirely predictable) but the 12 September vote in the EU parliament on the rule of law in Hungary (much less so). For the first time, an EU institution which is hard to describe as “anti-democratic” (it is elected directly by its citizens) called for the activation of article 7 procedure against a member state’s government because of the way it has been disemboweling essential democratic institutions and rights.