Germany’s biggest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), is pushing for the country to leave the European Union ahead of the EU parliament election. According to the manifesto drafted for the EU election scheduled for late May, the AfD called for Germany to leave the EU if party’s demands for drastic reforms were not met. The reforms proposed by the party include abolishing the EU Parliament and giving control back to the national governments.

AfD spokesman Jörg Meuthen called for a “Europe of nations which works together in peaceful cooperation” as opposed to a centralized Europe run from Brussels. The position taken by the AfD are similar to the recent demands made by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party. “What we propose is a quiet transition from the European Union to the European alliance of nations,” the French opposition leader said.

Initially, the AfD party delegates proposed a time table for the German withdrawal from the EU by 2024. The party leadership, however, diluted the demand, urging Brussels to carry out a reform program or face a “Dexit” campaign. A similar campaign by the UK Independence Party had forced the British government to hold an “in-out” referendum in 2016. The AfD’s manifesto demand “marks the first time any party has called for ‘Dexit’– a German departure from the EU in the mould of Brexit,” British newspaper The Guardian noted.

In September 2016, the AfD won 13 percent of the vote and emerged as the third-largest group in the German parliament. Amid growing migrant crime and series of Islamist terror attacks, the party continues to surge in polls.

German state broadcaster ZDF reported the demands put forward by the AfD:

The AfD considers Germany’s exit from the EU unavoidable if the block does not manage to change radically in a foreseeable period. In the party’s European conference in Riesa, Saxony State, the delegates agreed to a manifesto that states: “If the reform concept for the existing EU-system is not enacted within a reasonable time, we will see the necessity — as the last option — for Germany to leave [the EU], the dissolution of the union in an orderly manner, and creation of a new European economic community and community of interests.”

The main proposal, [presented to] the AfD manifesto committee, had called for a “Dexit” after a legislative period [within next 4 years]. Many speakers explained that the EU cannot be reformed. The AfD chairperson Alexander Gauland cautioned not to put a clear deadline for a “Dexit.” (…) Gauland said that the chances of relegating the EU to a purely economic community are very bright. This however will need more time than one legislative period. [Translation by the author]

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle summed up the AfD pre-election demands, saying the party calls for “a different European bloc, which would focus on economic cooperation and joint interests of European countries. Their manifesto also opposes the EU having a joint defense and foreign policy.”

The prospects of a Brexit-style campaign rattled the mainstream German parties. “It would be an unmitigated disaster for Germany,” the vice president of the German parliament Thomas Oppermann said. “The EU is very beneficial for our country, ensuring peace, protecting democracy and freedom.”

“With the AfD, we would have conditions in Germany like those in Britain. It is Germany’s Brexit Party,” said Manfred Weber, the leading member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and head of the conservative bloc in the EU parliament.

The plan for dismantling the EU power structure, as presented by the AfD, could be a death knell to the transnational project. AfD’s “terms of reform go so far that almost nothing of the present-day EU would survive it,” German Green party lawmaker Sven Giegold complained.

A Brexit-style campaign in Germany, the biggest net contributor to the EU treasury, could seriously disrupt bloc’s ongoing project of bolstering its centralized bureaucracy at the cost of sovereign European nation states. With leading opposition parties in France and Germany, Le Pen’s National Rally and the AfD, taking similar positions, the EU faces a formidable challenge this election season.

[Cover image via YouTube]