How the expansion of the European Union has facilitated the rise of the New Right in Austria and the United Kingdom.

The increasing power of the European Union has indirectly generated greater support for New Right parties in Contemporary Europe. The New Right in contemporary Europe can be categorised as a collection of right wing populist movements that tend to be similar. They share common ideology including: anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric and Euroscepticism. This essay will discuss the rise of the New Right in Europe by using both the ‘Freedom Party of Austria’ (FPÖ) and the ‘United Kingdom Independence Party’ (UKIP) as comparative case studies. Growing concerns about the European Union’s role in increasing immigration and undermining state sovereignty has in turn increased the support for the New Right in contemporary Europe.


The New Right in Europe must be distinguished with that of the Far Right. Far Right movements openly promote racism, have a strong belief in national chauvinism and at times support a neo-fascist combination of big government and social conservatism. An example of a Far Right party is Golden Dawn party in Greece which openly identify as racist. Their leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, denies that gas chambers or the holocaust existed in Nazi Germany.[1] Another example of the Far Right in contemporary Europe is the Nordic Resistance Movement, who oppose any non-white immigration to Scandinavia. They were involved in a violent attack on anti-racism protestors in 2013 where two protestors were stabbed and two police injured.[2] It must be noted that there is a repeated branding of New Right parties as racist or xenophobic by opponents, this is an attempt to delegitimise the movement and is not based upon solid evidence. Whilst UKIP and the FPÖ have been accused of racism, they do not condone or openly support discrimination of others based on race and this distinguishes them from the Far Right.


It is useful to briefly outline the context and the recent electoral results of both UKIP and the FPÖ as to better understand the rise of the New Right. Ideologically both parties are: Eurosceptic, nationalistic, economically liberal and socially conservative. UKIP was founded in 1991 as the Anti-Federalist League, formed to argue against the Maastricht treaty in 1991, and was renamed UKIP in 1993.[3] The Maastricht treaty introduced the Euro currency and formed the legislative basis of the European Union.[4] The leader of UKIP Nigel Farage has been accused of racism due to remarks such as: ‘If a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned?’[5] Aside from occasional controversial remarks, UKIP does not condone or directly encourage racist or discriminatory action and as such is not a part of the far right. The history of the FPÖ is more extensive and controversial than UKIPs. The Federation of Independents was founded in 1949 as an alternative to the Centre-Left Social Democrats and the Catholic Centre Right Austrian Peoples Party. In 1955 the party merged with the Freedom Party and the FPÖ was formed. What is particularly controversial about the FPÖ is the allegations of Nazi sympathies evidenced by incidents such as former FPÖ leader Jörg Haider stating: ‘in the Third Reich they had an “orderly” employment policy.’[6] Both of these parties emerged in different contexts however recently have gained popularity due to the increased power of the European Union. In 2009 the FPÖ received 12.7% of the vote in the European parliament elections and held 2 of the 19 Austrian seats.[7] UKIP in the same election received 16.09% of the vote and held 13 of the 72 United Kingdom seats.[8] In 2014 European elections, the FPÖ received 19.7% of the vote and currently holds 4 of 18 seats.[9] UKIP received 27.5% of the vote and holds 24 of the 73 available seats.[10] Between the European elections in 2009 and 2014, UKIP received an increase of 10.9% in their total vote whilst the FPÖ vote increased by 7%. In the Lower House elections both parties have been less successful; in 2010 UKIP received 3.1% of the vote and did not win any seats.[11] In 2015 UKIP received 12.6% of the vote and won 1 seat.[12] From 2002 till the most recent election of 2013 the vote for the FPÖ has increased at every election, starting at 10% with 18 seats and in 2013 reached 20.5% with 40 seats.[13] [14] In the 2016 Austrian presidential election, the FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer closely lost to Alexander Van der Bellen gaining 49.65% of the vote despite winning the first round with 35.1% compared to Van der Bellens 21.3%.[15] [16] Despite the controversy surrounding both parties, UKIP and the FPÖ have experienced a recent surge of support particularly in the European elections. This increase in support is a result of the European Union’s expansion and impact upon immigration and nationalism in both countries.


Two popular explanations by Historians studying the rise of the New Right in Europe are: the historical explanation and the demographic explanation. The historical explanation posits that the New Right draw upon the sentiments of 20th century European fascism. This explanation is effective in explaining the FPÖ and the alleged reports of Nazi sympathies. Whilst the FPÖ does share elements of the Völkisch Germanic tradition that influenced Nazism, it is very difficult to correlate any movement with Nazism due to the hatred that the movement based itself upon.[17] Whilst Nazi Germany was nationalist and anti-immigration, simply because the FPÖ also promotes these ideas it does not implicate them as a neo-Nazi party. This explanation has been rebutted by Historian Peter Merkl who argues that simply by identifying with fascist symbolism does not resurrect the said identity.[18] The second explanation is the demographic explanation that suggests that the disgruntled blue collar worker makes up the majority of the New Rights voter base. This was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s as an explanation for Nazism and evidence does support this explanation.[19] [20] A study of United Kingdom voters supports this explanation; as 23% of UKIP voters earn more than £40,000 a year compared to the average of 31%.[21] [22] Furthermore 13% of UKIP voters have a university degree compared to the average of 25%.[23] From this we can deduce that the majority of UKIP support comes from low-middle class blue collar workers who tend to be less educated than average. In the 2013 elections the FPÖ attracted 25% of voters under 30, larger than any other party.[24] Blue collar support for the FPÖ historically was low as in 1983 they received 2% of the blue collar vote whilst in 1999 they received 48% of the blue collar vote.[25] The results from the 2016 Austrian presidential election support this explanation as 86% of blue collar workers voted for Norbert Hofer.[26] The largest age-demographic of Hofer’s voting base came from the Male 30-59 voters.[27] [28] Historians such as Resnick have attributed this demographic support for the New Right to the idea of ‘protest politics’ where people vote for the New Right due to a sense of disenfranchisement with the traditional centre-right and centre-left parties.[29] The demographic explanation is effective in identifying the voter base of both UKIP and the FPÖ but it must be asked what has triggered the recent spike in support for these New Right parties? I will provide evidence to suggest that the increasing power of the European Union has been the catalyst for the New Rights recent support.


One ideological similarity between UKIP and the FPÖ is a desire for restrictions on immigration and introduction of national borders. I’ll argue that the European Union’s laws on immigration have exacerbated concerns about immigration in Europe which creates support for the anti-immigration base of UKIP and the FPÖ. The 1985 Schengen Agreement grants freedom of movement to EU citizens within member nations by abolishing border controls.[30] The Schengen area includes all countries of the European Union however there does exist strict external border controls for citizens who are not from a European Union member state.[31] UKIP has longed campaigned against Turkey joining the European Union as the Schengen agreement would grant all Turkish citizens the right to live and work anywhere in any member state of the European Union.[32]  Migration by European Union citizens to the United Kingdom has steadily risen from 201,000 in 2013 to 268,000 in 2014.[33] UKIP has pushed for controlled immigration that would remove the free movement of peoples between member states. Currently the ability to refuse people entry to the United Kingdom on any basis except if they pose a threat has been deemed illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.[34] Contextually the European migrant crisis occurred in 2015 where over 1,200,000 displaced peoples travelled to European countries to seek asylum.[35] UKIP pinpoints mass immigration and the borderless nature of European Union nations for social issues including unemployment: ‘It’s about mass immigration at a time when 21% of young people can’t find work.’[36] As well as this UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall blamed issues of NHS funding upon increased immigration, stating that: ‘You can’t plan for the NHS when you’ve got too many people in the country.’[37] As such the European Union’s Schengen area has increased support for UKIP, as voters attribute social concerns such as unemployment upon the European Union’s stance on immigration.[38]

In 2014 Austria was the 4th highest country for immigration in the EU, taking in over three times the EU average.[39] Despite this Austria had the 3rd lowest naturalisation rate for non-national residents.[40] During the migrant crisis, Austria consistently received a large amount of asylum applications, receiving 30,800 or 7% of the total of refugees from the 4th quarter of 2015.[41] Both Afghanistan and Syrian refugees make up 50,000 of the refugees that Austria took in in the 2015 crisis.[42] This can be attributed to the extensive welfare benefits that Austria provides for migrants.[43] The FPÖ proposes that Austria cut itself off from all non-European immigration and to do so as a safeguard against the perceived threat of Islam.[44] Furthermore, the leader of the FPÖ Heinz-Christian Strache has stated: ‘We don’t want an Islamisation of Europe. We don’t want our Christian-Western culture to perish.’ [45] Many in the FPÖ cite the extensive welfare provided to refugees and suggests that they live off the Austrian people.[46] [47] In response to the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, Austria temporarily halted the free movement of EU citizens and re-introduced border controls.[48] Much like UKIP, the FPÖ blames the Schengen areas unrestricted immigration for various social issues such as unemployment and tax rates.


This section analyses why the New Right parties are Eurosceptic and will discuss the concerns they raise with the Europe Union. Both UKIP and FPO share similar concerns with the European Union including: monetary contributions to the EU, the power of the EU over national sovereignty, and concerns about the democratic nature of the EU. The perceived undemocratic nature of the European Union is specifically to do with the elections of: President of the European Council, President of the European Commission, and the President of the European Parliament.[49] The issue of a democratic deficit has been remarked upon by Rittberger who agrees with the idea that the European Union does suffer from a democratic deficiency.[50] Up until 1989, the FPÖ supported Austria joining the European Union.[51]  A growing sense of Euroscepticism in Austria has slowly developed since 1995 which led the FPÖ to adopt a soft-Eurosceptic stance as a way to capture the populist vote.[52] Historian Fallend suggests that the Eurosceptic movement in Austria can be classified as soft as the FPÖ does not advocate to leave the European Union but instead a reduction of any future expansion.[53] In 1994, 85.5% the FPÖ voted against joining the EU with members raising  concerns such as: ‘against “70,000 additional unemployed”, “voting rights for foreigners”, “unlimited criminality”, the “transit hell” and the like.’[54] The FPÖ during the campaign argued that joining the EU would introduce cheap foreign labour and increase unemployment; however the result of the referendum was a 66.6% yes vote.[55] [56] Another cited issue is the €2.691 billion that Austria gives to the EU every year which is 0.82% of its Gross National Income; which many supporters believe could be spent on Austrian domestic issues.[57] [58] Party leader Heinz Christian-Strache has stated that: ‘The irresponsible immigration politics of past decades and in particular the islamising of Europe are a dangerous threat [and] [i]t is again the time to save Europe.’[59]  More recently there has been an increase in the Austrian Eurosceptic movement evidenced by a petition that gained 260,000 signatures in 2014 calling for Austria to leave the EU.[60] The FPÖ then benefits from the increased Eurosceptic sentiment in Austria as it ties into their primary focus on immigration reform. [61]


By contrast UKIP was originally a single-issue party focused only on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. In 1975 the United Kingdom held a referendum on joining the EU and the result was a 67.23% yes vote.[62] Since this decision, the pro-EU feeling has slowly evaporated evidenced by David Cameron calling a referendum on United Kingdom member status in the EU for June 2016. The United Kingdom gave the European Union €11.342 billion in 2016, 0.52% of their Gross National Income.[63] UKIP is highly critical of the European Union  with leader Nigel Farage stating: ‘It’s a European Union of economic failure, of mass unemployment and of low growth.’[64] UKIP is fundamentally a Eurosceptic party and any expansion to the European Union’s power is going to inevitably generate a larger voter base for the New Right party.


The nationalism that is prevalent within the New Right has been heightened following pro-European nationalism policies introduced by the European Union. The idea of a “United State of Europe” has been suggested by some politicians, a move which would involve a large expansion of the European Union. The former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt wrote a book outlining why a federalised Europe would be beneficial economically and politically.[65] Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is a strong exponent of a United States of Europe stating that: ‘For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe.’[66] As already stated, parties on the New Right are linked by a common Eurosceptic desire to leave or curb the powers of the European Union. Proposals like a United States of Europe plays exactly to the Eurosceptic platform that UKIP and the FPÖ are founded upon. As well as this the increasing prominence of the European Union flag and the increasing use of the Anthem of Europe resulted in protest by Eurosceptic MEPs where they turned their back during its performance.[67] As well as this, loss of sovereignty and decision making power is another result of the European Union that in turn strengthens the New Right. A key aspect of UKIPs platform is a focus on British nationalism due to the increased power of the European Union over sovereignty. 14% of the laws of the UK are made in the European Union; a statistic that highlights concerns that UKIP supporters have.[68] Furthermore the €6.985 billion that the EU allocates towards projects in the United Kingdom is not decided by the United Kingdom but instead by the EU.[69] The statistic that only 5% of British companies’ export to the EU and all of them are subject to their regulations.[70] The FPÖ has focused on Nationalism as a core aspect of its party platform. Historian Rathkolb has stated that: ‘National pride in Austria, highly developed even by international standards, has never been more powerful than it is today.’[71] This nationalism can be evidenced with slogans used in the elections such as: ‘Mehr Mut für unser Wiener Blut’ (More Strength for our Viennese Blood).[72] In 2006 a poster from the FPÖ said: ‘Heimar Statt Schlüssel & Brüssel’(Our homeland not Schlüssel and Brussels.)[73]  The FPÖ then accuse the European Union of undermining Austrian nationalism and such a sentiment has resulted in a larger voter base.


This essay has shown how the growing power of the European Union has directly increased the base of the New Right in Europe. The concerns about immigration, nationalism, and of course Eurosceptics have been inflamed in Austria and the United Kingdom by the increasing power of the European Union. Both UKIP and the FPÖ have benefitted from this with increasingly successful election results in National and European elections. The historical explanation is ineffective in explaining the New Right whilst it is correct that blue collar workers make up the large proportion of UKIP and FPÖs supporter base. The increased power of the European Union has inadvertently increased the appeal and voter base of the New Right in contemporary Europe.







[1] Taylor, A. (2012, May 16). Now The Greek Far Right Party Is Denying The Holocaust. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved from

[2] Nazi group attacks peaceful rally: two stabbed. (2013, December 15). Radio Sweden, p. 1. Retrieved from

[3] Hunt, A. (2014, November 21). UKIP: The story of the UK Independence Party’s rise. BBC News. Retrieved from

[4] Full Text of the Maastricht Treaty. (1992, February 7). Retrieved from Europa:

[5] Nigel Farage attacked over Romanians ‘slur’. (2014, May 18). BBC News. Retrieved from

[6] Joerg Haider: Key quotes. (2000, February 2). BBC News, p. 1. Retrieved from

[7] Election Results European Parliament: Austria. (2009). Retrieved from European Parliament:

[8] European Parliament Results by Country: United Kingdom. (2009). Retrieved from European Parliament:

[9] European Parliament Results by Country: Austria. (2014). Retrieved from European Parliament:

[10] European Parliament Results by Country: United Kingdom. (2014). Retrieved from European Parliament:

[11] Election 2010 National Results. (2010). BBC News. Retrieved from

[12] 2015 Election results. (2015). BBC News. Retrieved from

[13] Stimmenstärkste Partei pro Bundesland. (2013). Retrieved from Bundesministerium Für Inneres:

[14] Austria: Parliamentary Election 2002. (2002, November). Retrieved from European Election 2002:

[15] Stimmenstärkste Kandidaten pro Bundesland. (2016). Retrieved from Bundesministerium Für Inneres:

[16] Stimmenstärkste Kandidaten pro Bundesland. (2016). Retrieved from Bundesministerium Für Inneres:

[17] A German cultural tradition that focused on populist national sentiment. Stackelberg, R. (1981). Idealism debased: from völkisch ideology to national socialism. Ohio: Kent State University Press.

[18] the question has to be raised whether the eager self-identification with an old and often poorly understood label –and under completely different circumstances- really resurrects the old identities.” Merkl, P. (2008). “Why are they so strong now? Comparative reflections on the revival of the radical right in Europe” . The Revival of Right-Wing Extremism in the Nineties, 23.

[19] Lipset, S. (1988). Revolution and Counterrevolution: Change and Persistence in Social Structures. Transaction Publishers.

[20] Historian Rogowski concluded a study which challenged the myth of the middle-class support for the NSDAP concluding that in fact they made up a smaller amount then is generally believed. Rogowski, R. (1977). The Gauleiter and the Social Origins of Fascism. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 399-430.

[21] Kellner, P. (2013, March 3). How UKIP voters compare. Retrieved from YouGov:

[22] Worth noting is 71% of UKIP voters were over the age of 50 compared to the average of 46%. Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Weber, N. (2008, October 1). Youth Votes Right: Election results reveal young Austrians to be surprisingly extreme – and influential. Retrieved from the Vienna Review:

[25]Mair, P. (2002). Political Parties and Electoral Change: Party Responses to Electoral Markets. SAGE Publications.

[26] CLEMM VON HOHENBERG, B. (2016, May 23). Gates of Vienna. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved from

[27] By contrast the strongest demographic of support for the Van Der Bellen came from the Women up to 29, with over 60% of the vote. Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Neo-conservatism and Beyond. (1997). In P. Resnick, Twenty-First Century Democracy (pp. 63-72). Ontario: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[30] Schengen: Controversial EU free movement deal explained. (2016, April 24). BBC News. Retrieved from

[31] The United Kingdom only accepted the Schengen Area in 2004 with the passing of the Free Movement Directive. Union, E. (2004, April 29). DIRECTIVE 2004/38/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL. Strasbourg. Retrieved from

[32] The impact of potential Turkish accession to the European Union on migration to the UK. (2016, June 7). Retrieved from Migration Watch:

[33] Vargas-Silva, C. (2015, October 5). EU Migration to and from the UK. Retrieved from The Migration Observatory: University of Oxford:


[35] Asylum statistics. (2016, April 20). Retrieved from Europa:

[36]Farnham, D. (2014). Snippets of Nigel Farage. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

[37] Smith, M. (2015, November 13). Ukip’s Paul Nuttall booed for blaming NHS crisis on immigrants and defending support for privatisation. the Mirror, p. 1. Retrieved from

[38] “Anybody can fly into Britain regardless of whether they’ve ever been here before, of whether they have any connection with this country, go to a London hospital, have a test for HIV, and if they’re proved positive, then receive retroviral drugs that are worth more than £20,000 a year.” LeMay, D. (2015, April 16). Manifesto Launch. Retrieved from UKIP:

[39] Immigrants, 2014 (per 1 000 inhabitants). (2016, May 31). Retrieved from Eurostat:

[40] Naturalisation rate, 2014 (¹) (per 100 non-national residents). (2016, May 31). Retrieved from Eurostat:

[41] Asylum quarterly report. (2016, March 3). Retrieved from Eurostat:

[42] Five main citizenships of (non-EU) asylum applicants, 2015. (2016, March 3). Retrieved from Eurostat:

[43] Trevelyan, M. (2015, September 16). Which European countries offer the most social benefits to migrants? Euro News. Retrieved from

[44] Wong, T. (2015). Rights, Deportation, and Detention in the Age of Immigration Control. Stanford University Press.

[45] Shields, M. (2015, September 5). Austrian far-right leader blames U.S., NATO for migrant crisis. Reuters. Retrieved from

[46] Ibid, p. 103.

[47] Trevelyan, M. (2015, September 16). Which European countries offer the most social benefits to migrants? Euronews, p. 1. Retrieved from

[48] Minns, J. (2016, January 20). Austria suspends Schengen. Politico. Retrieved from

[49] Tasch, B. (2016, March 9). Here is how the EU’s key players come to power. Business Insider Australia. Retrieved from

[50] Rittberger, B. (2003). The Creation and Empowerment of the European Parliament. Journal of Common Market Studies, 210.

[51] Ibid, P. 11.

[52] Müller, M. (2009). Taking Stock of the Austrian Accession to the EU: With Regard to the Arguments of its Referendum Campaign in 1994. Geneva: European Institute, P.36.

[53] Fallend, F. (2008). Euroscepticism in Austrian Political Parties: Ideologically Rooted or Strategically Motivated? In Opposing Europe? Vol. 1 The Comparative Party Politics of Euroscepticism: Case Studies and Country Surveys. (p. 213). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[54] Ibid, P. 11.

[55] Austria: EU Related Referendums. (2015, 14 8). Retrieved from European Election Database:

[56] Müller, M. (2009). Taking Stock of the Austrian Accession to the EU: With Regard to the Arguments of its Referendum Campaign in 1994. Geneva: European Institute, P.27.

[57] Austria. (2016, June 10). Retrieved from European Union Web Site:

[58] What is not mentioned by the FPÖ on this issue is the €1.573 billion that the EU spends on Austria, which is still a net loss of €1.118 billion in 2016. Ibid.

[59] Turner-Graham, E. (2008). “Austria First”: H.C. Strache, Austrian identity and the current. University of Melbourne.

[60] Krause, J. (2015, July 5). Austrians Sign Petition to Leave European Union. Global Research. Retrieved from

[61] Historian Höbelt argues that the backflip on position was a result of the FPÖ realising they could win voters by adopting a Eurosceptic stance. Höbelt, L. (2003). Defiant Populist Jörg Haider and the Politics of Austria. Indiana: Purdue University Press, P. 103.

[62] 1975: UK embraces Europe in referendum. (1976, June 6). BBC News. Retrieved from

[63] United Kingdom. (2016, June 10). Retrieved from European Union:

[64] Nigel Farage warns of EU ‘mass unrest’ and ‘revolution. (2012, May 10). BBC News. Retrieved from

[65] Verhofstadt, G. (2006). The United States of Europe. The Federal Trust.

[66] Martin, B. (2014, June 22). Italy to push for ‘United States of Europe’ when it holds the EU presidency. Telegraph, p. 1. Retrieved from

[67] Nigel Farage leads UKIP protest at EU Parliament. (2014, July 1). BBC News. Retrieved from

[68] Sippitt, A. (2016, June 8). UK law: What proportion is influenced by the EU? Retrieved from Full fact:

[69] United Kingdom. (2016, June 10). Retrieved from European Union:

[70]UKIP Manifesto 2014. (2014). Retrieved from UKIP:

[71] Rathkolb, O. (2010). The paradoxical republic : Austria, 1945-2005. New York: Berghahn Books, P.270.

[72] Zielina, A. (2010, August 16). Strache will das “Wiener Blut” schützen. derStandard. Retrieved from

[73] Bushell, A. (2013). Polemical Austria: The Rhetorics of National Identity from Empire to the Second Republic. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

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