The uncertainty will be such that Herman Van Rompuy, the former President of the European Union, has said that no serious negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU can begin before the German elections, expected in September next year.
The election season begins in Italy with a referendum on constitutional reform to strengthen the hold on power of the biggest party in parliament. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is pushing through reforms because, he says, the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement of the comedian Beppe Grillo refuses to enter into coalitions and this makes for weak government. He has promised to resign if he loses, which would be a blow to European stability felt far beyond Italy’s borders.
In December, Norbert Hofer of Austria’s Freedom Party is bidding to become the first right-wing head of state in modern Europe, in a re-run of vote in May which he narrowly lost. Hofer’s party challenged the result on the grounds of voting irregularities.