France's far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen addresses...

France's far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen addresses her supporters as part of a May Day party lunch in Paris on May 1, 2016. On background is a portrait of Joan of Arc -- the party's patron saint. Credit: AP / Kamil Zihnioglu

Emboldened by Britain's decision to shrug off the European Union, a constellation of nationalists across the continent is daring to dream big: saying they, too, should have the chance for an up-down vote on the unloved bureaucracy in Brussels.

From the Netherlands to Denmark to Austria to Finland, far-right politicians are salivating at the idea of exiting a club they blame for unwanted immigrants, economic squalor and a loss of sovereignty.

And nowhere could the possibility pose a greater threat to the European Union's future than in France, where the far-right National Front party is surging in polls a year ahead of presidential elections.

That is part of the challenge facing EU leaders as they gather Tuesday for an unprecedented summit to start divorce talks with one of their own.

Allowing Britain to walk away with generous terms could energize anti-EU forces elsewhere if the departure seems relatively consequence-free. But too harsh a response could also blow back on Europe, fueling a continent-wide recession that would drive angry voters into populists' embrace.

It remains unclear whether any faction around Europe could spearhead a referendum similar to Britain's. But there are already footholds for assaults on the EU's broad powers. Leaders across Europe -- shaken by the British outcome -- have indicated they could give serious looks at reforms to address complaints about EU policy-making and oversight.

In France, National Front leader Marine Le Pen - a charismatic 47-year-old whose cigarette-weathered voice cuts through her nation's sleepy political landscape like a bolt of lightning - has been jubilant in the aftermath of the British decision. She says it proves her views are mainstream, not marginal.

But more than any other country save Germany, a French departure from the EU would call into question the basic viability of the alliance, shattering a project that has been a beacon of postwar stability and an important forum of Western unity in a world filled with chaotic new threats.

"The British people have brought to the peoples of Europe, but also to the peoples of the whole world, a shining lesson in democracy," a beaming Le Pen said in the hours after the result upended Britain.

"Across Europe, I hope that initiatives will emerge to cause as many replicas as possible of this Brexit," she said. "Movement has been triggered toward the end of the European Union as we know it."

The possibility that the European Union could uncoil has inspired some dark humor among pro-European advocates. One prognosis circulated by economist Justin Wolfers facetiously predicted new versions of the British exit, known as Brexit: Departugal, Italeave and Czechout, among others.

Polling this month from the Pew Research Center showed that Britain was hardly alone in its Euroskepticism. Sixty-one percent of French people see the EU unfavorably - more than in Britain - and that view is shared by a majority of Greeks and a plurality of Spaniards, the polls found. The desire to take back some powers from Brussels is shared even more widely.

With French President François Hollande's popularity scraping record lows, next year's presidential election appears ripe for an insurgent candidate like Le Pen. For now, she leads many polls for the crowded first round of voting, but drops to second-place in France's head-to-head, second-round campaign.

Many French voters mistrust her party's past ties to neo-Nazis, a chapter Le Pen says she has closed, and others doubt her ideas about deporting some section of France's legal immigrant population.

As a measure of her newfound status in the French political firmament, she was included in post-Brexit crisis meetings Saturday with French President François Hollande, giving her a chance to bring her demands for an EU referendum to the gilded halls of the Elysée Palace. A version of that idea is quickly spreading into the political mainstream, even though a victory for Europe would be far from assured. In 2005, 55 percent of French voters rejected a European Constitution.

"There should be a new treaty. It should be voted at the end in a referendum as a choice for the French people," said Bruno Le Maire, a pro-EU politician who served as cabinet minister under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Le Maire is running in third place in a primary campaign to lead the center-right Republicans party.

"The status quo will lead to the death of the European Union," he said in an interview.

On Saturday, a prominent center-left leader for the first time added to the calls for a referendum, underscoring the extent to which French politicians feel under pressure to win a pro-EU mandate from their voters.

Leaders "have never had the courage to propose a real European referendum," said French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, widely seen as a rising star of the center-left and a possible presidential contender next year. He said his idea was to hold an EU-wide referendum on a new vision for the bloc.

An anti-EU message has force on both sides of the political spectrum, spanning right-wing National Front supporters who want to stop immigration and close France's borders to leftists who criticize the EU as being captured by big business.

"What's going on in England, that's the first real test," said Emmanuel Pehau, 38, a philosophy teaching assistant who has been taking part in a left-wing Paris protest gathering called Nuit Debout, or Stand Up at Night. "If one country in Europe has the stamina and the resources to do it, it's them."

But despite at least one common goal, the two wings appear uninterested in working with each other to fight the EU, potentially weakening any anti-Europe campaign.

"We don't have to fight together," said Gilbert Collard, one of the National Front's two legislators in the lower house of France's parliament. "We can fight, each on their own side, for a common goal."

Still, many here feel that the British vote may embolden voters to opt for the far right.

"Brexit can certainly contribute to increasing the vote for the National Front," said Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on the French far right at the Jean Jaures Foundation, a think tank. "It can show that the National Front is not foolish. They're not saying they want to live on the moon. They're just saying they want to do something they did in Britain."

The Brexit vote appeared set to have similar reverberations for far-right parties across Europe.

Many such parties were initially critical of the euro currency union and immigration. But in recent months, detecting an opening, they have trained their sights on the European Union itself. The Brexit decision gives them ammunition to ask their own national leaders why they don't have the courage to put a similar question before their own people.

In the Netherlands, "the majority of the people want the Nexit, or at least a referendum about a possible Nexit," said the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders in a video posted on his website. "Today is the beginning of the end of the European Union."

In Denmark, the Euroskeptic Danish People's Party is the largest grouping in parliament, and immediately pressed its governing partners for a choice on an EU. Other Euroskeptic parties are gaining traction in Germany, Sweden, Italy and elsewhere.

"They are benefiting each day that goes by without it being clear what will happen next," said Andreas Mauer, a political science professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. "They profit as long as it doesn't become clear that leaving the EU might have consequences."

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