France

Is there any support for leaving the EU?

President Hollande is firmly committed to both the EU and the single currency. By contrast Marine Le Pen – whose right-wing Front National emerged as the largest party in recent regional elections – has said she will hold a referendum on EU membership if she wins the presidency in 2017. If the unexpected surge in nationalism seen in the UK poll is replicated across the Channel, Ms Le Pen could present a serious challenge to the candidates from the main parties – potentially President Hollande and Alain Juppé or Nicolas Sarkozy.

How could a referendum be triggered?

Article 89 of the French constitution, which governs how the constitution itself can be amended, could be used to hold a referendum. France’s membership of the EU is enshrined in its constitution, so for it to leave, the constitution would need to be changed. A Bill setting out the changes could be put to a public vote, but only after it has been passed by both the lower and upper houses of parliament. Using Article 89 would impose tight time limits – the Bill would need to pass through both houses within 10 weeks of it being submitted – and in exactly the same form. Given the significance of the decision this route would therefore appear unlikely to succeed as it requires the support of a majority of MPs.

Another possible route could be to use Article 11, which enables the President to put to a referendum any Bill that deals with ‘the organisation of the public authorities or … reforms relating to the economic, social or environmental policy of the nation … or which provides for authorisation to ratify a treaty which, although not contrary to the Constitution, would affect the functioning of the institutions’.‎ If the public vote goes in favour of such a Bill, the President has to implement it. However it is not clear whether Article 11 could be used to stage a referendum on withdrawal from the EU.

Netherlands

Is there any support for leaving the EU?

Support for Geert Wilders’s far-right Freedom party has grown in recent years to the point that it now tops polls of voting intention in the Netherlands. Mr Wilders has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership if he wins next year’s general election. However Mr Wilders’s voice is an outlier in Dutch politics, with no other party supporting an in/out referendum and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte describing the idea as ‘utterly irresponsible’. Polls conducted since the Brexit vote show 71 per cent of Dutch citizens would vote in favour staying in the EU.

How could a referendum be triggered?

Any referendum in the Netherlands would be non-binding without constitutional change, and the last attempt to amend the constitution in 1996 failed. Non-binding referendums can only be used in relation to new laws or treaties but not concern existing laws or treaties. A legislative proposal would be needed to hold a non-binding referendum on EU membership, and this would require majority approval in the currently pro-Europe House of Representatives.

Italy

Is there any support for leaving the EU?

Beppe Grillo’s Eurosceptic Five Star Movement – which holds the mayoralties of Rome and Turin and has recently moved ahead of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party in the polls – has said it wants a referendum on membership of the single currency, although not on leaving the EU. The far-right Northern League has called for an in/out vote but at present its support is minimal. By contrast Mr Renzi is an increasingly influential voice in Brussels and a firm supporter of the European project. The indebtedness of Italy’s banks could complicate matters however – the government’s plan to inject €40bn into the sector could hit retail investors and may also contravene European state aid rules. How voters would respond to a new banking crisis is hard to predict.

How could a referendum be triggered?

Italy’s constitution states that a referendum cannot be held to authorise ratification of international treaties, so any public vote on EU membership would require constitutional change. A constitutional amendment requires two distinct votes by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, with at least three months between each. The second vote must be approved by an absolute majority in both houses. If the amendment is passed on the second vote with a 2:1 majority in both houses, no referendum would be needed. But a referendum could be held if, within three months of the amendment being published, 20 per cent of either house, 500,000 voters or five regional councils request one. If the amendment were put to a public vote, it would pass with an absolute majority.