As dawn broke over a shocked Brussels, a group of European MEPs warned that last night’s astonishing Brexit vote will cause the EU to ‘crumble to pieces’ within the next five years.
Their statement came as Britain voted to leave the EU, contrary to all projections by pollsters, to the bewilderment of the Eurocrats in Brussels.
‘This is the beginning of the end for the EU,’ Peter Lundgren, an MEP from the far-Right Sweden Democrat party, told MailOnline. ‘So many other countries will follow the UK. Europe will fall.’
The Eurosceptic MEPs from Sweden, Germany, Italy and France said a number of governments will now be under intense pressure to hold referendums of their own, and try to renegotiate their own individual deals.
This, they said, will lead to a ‘domino effect’ in the wake of Britain’s trailblazing and unprecedented decision to leave the EU.
‘It’s just a matter of time,’ Lundgren said. ‘Britain has set a precedent. Other member states will follow and the whole thing will fall apart. It will happen very soon.’
Overnight, as it became apparent that Britain was turning against the EU establishment, Brussels Eurocrats gradually left the bars around the parliament building and went home to bed.
Several British apparatchiks were concerned about their livelihood, with one telling MailOnline that he was expecting ‘to be on the scrapheap in the morning’.
The Commission and European Parliament buildings remained deserted, but a number of lights burned on the upper floors as a small number of desperate bureaucrats tried to lay the groundwork for a response to the most momentous event in the Union’s history.
Last night’s extraordinary vote was a reflection of the support for Eurosceptic parties that has been steadily growing across Europe in recent years, including for the populist and far-Right movements.
The Sweden Democrats – which started as a white supremacist party before sanitizing its image – became the country’s third-largest party in 2014, and topped opinion polls last year.
In France, the Front National is now finishing first in elections, and in Germany, Alternative Für Deutschland has more than 20,000 members.
Italy, Holland, Austria and other countries also have significant Eurosceptic followings, forming a wave of cynicism towards the EU and its cosseted elites.
Britain’s vote to leave will be seen as a huge boost for the Eurosceptics and populists, who have long argued that the Brussels elite are out of touch with the will of the people. Among them are inevitably a number of far-Right parties.
‘Our support is growing all over Europe,’ Lundgren said. ‘The EU cannot survive. It is too undemocratic, corruption is too high, the Eurocrats’ ambition is too much, there is too much money in the gravy train.
‘It makes ordinary people raving mad. People are gradually realising what’s going on. Britain has now started the process, and Europe will be fully dismantled by another country.’
Jeppe Koford, a mainstream Danish politician who leads the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, admitted that the EU was in dire straits but thought it was ‘too early to make that judgment’.
He said: ‘It’s not the UK referendum that could make Europe fall apart. It’s the lack of solutions to problems, whether its low wages, high unemployment or the terrorist threat,’ he said.
‘These are the main drivers of disintegration, if we’re not strong enough.’
But Beatrix von Storch, an MEP from Germany’s Alternative Für Deutschland, argued that Britain’s stunning decision would ‘start a process that can’t be stopped’, and had turned the EU upside down.
‘Let’s not forget that even those who voted to remain didn’t like the EU much,’ she said. ‘Remain campaigners kept repeating “the EU is not perfect”. They didn’t passionately believe in it, they have just been scared into supporting it.
‘Cameron’s renegotiation was going towards the Eurosceptic side, showing that even the people who are too scared to vote to leave the EU want less of it.’
This, she said, reflected a Europe-wide disaffection with the EU that is growing year by year. ‘The process of the end has begun,’ she said. ‘Something has been started in Europe, and it cannot be stopped. Once one country is out, Europe will fall.’
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.