What the populist backlash might mean for 2017, according to Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer

2017 global challenges: Expert

This year has seen populist movements yank the U.K. from the European Union and elect Donald Trump in the U.S., but where they go in 2017 could mean major shake-ups for Europe and beyond, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told CNBC on Tuesday.

"It would be useful if the populist growth that we see in the United States and Europe actually creates a backlash that actually forces issues of what happens to both identity politics as well as what happens to working classes [and] puts that on the table," Bremmer said on "Squawk Box."

But, he added, it's "not clear to me that that we're going to have that kind of wholesale change to actual policy."

Identity politics have become something of a trending topic during the Syrian refugee crisis and the U.S. election, both of which spurred anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric that called border security and immigration policy into question.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a news conference in Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016, one day after a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital.
Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

Bremmer said that there is a sense that the European Union could disintegrate in 2017 over European leaders losing power to populist movements, with Germany being an exception.

"The economics of the EU work for the Germans in a way that they don't work for the EU periphery," Bremmer said, citing that as a reason for why Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership has not been as threatened by populism as leaders of such countries as France or the U.K.

But December's terrorist attack at a Christmas market in Berlin put even Merkel's authority under pressure in a country that views taking refugees as a "security issue" with "bad immigrants" making it worse for other immigrants living in the country, Bremmer said.

Bremmer's global outlook for 2017, like many others, is muddy. Brexit remains an open question in many ways, he said, as proceedings and the role of Parliament in Britain's future remain unclear.

"You could easily have a snap election in the U.K. before you get to real Brexit negotiations," Bremmer said.