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More than two years after the first edition went on sale, the weekly tabloid that takes an unabashedly pro-EU stance is surging in popularity.Matt Dunham/The Associated Press

The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union sparked an unlikely startup that’s going strong: a newspaper.

The New European’s first edition went on sale July 7, 2016, just two weeks after voters endorsed exiting the EU, and no one gave it much chance of surviving, including the publisher, who figured it might last a month.

But more than two years later, the weekly tabloid that takes an unabashedly pro-EU stance is surging in popularity. Its circulation has steadily grown to 23,000 and pulls in about one million unique visitors a month to its website. It has also attracted a roster of high-profile contributors, including former prime minister Tony Blair. And, it’s making money.

“I really believe in pop-up publishing as a new model,” said Matt Kelly the chief content officer at Archant, a Norwich-based company that publishes about 60 regional newspapers and 75 magazines, including the New European. “I think that’s what’s going to happen to media, it’s going to get more and more specialized."

Mr. Kelly got the idea for the New European the day after the referendum as he walked around London feeling depressed about the result. “It occurred to me that overnight a completely new constituency had been created that didn’t know they existed the day before,” he told a group of foreign journalists on Friday. “Very clearly, they thought Brexit was bad. They were all angry about it and they all wanted to do something about it.”

He quickly put together a proposal for a national newspaper with an EU bent, choosing the name from a song by the 1980s British pop band Ultravox. The paper’s first edition sold 40,000 copies despite a steep cover price of £2, or $3.36. Circulation fell to about 15,000 that summer and Mr. Kelly thought it would close.

But the numbers turned in the fall and sales have been climbing ever since, even with a price increase to £2.50. The paper makes money on each issue and Mr. Kelly keeps costs down with just one full-time employee and four part-time staff. He relies on a stable of freelancers and got a boost when Alastair Campbell, Mr. Blair’s former communications director, joined as editor-at-large.

The paper covers international news, arts, culture and even poetry, but Brexit is the main focus. And Mr. Kelly makes no apologies for its fierce opposition to Britain leaving the EU. The most recent issue included an article attacking Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy as “deluded.” Another story suggested Brexit will impact climate change and a column hinted that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab “tells fibs.” Mr. Kelly views the New European as a small counterweight to the Daily Mail, the Sun and Daily Telegraph, which are stridently pro-Brexit.

These are not great times for newspapers in Britain and it’s uncertain how long the New European can last. Daily circulation has been falling at major dailies and publishers are piling up losses. Just before the New European launched, two other papers closed after only a few weeks in circulation. One of them, New Day, lasted only two months despite a flashy ad campaign and the backing of Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Daily Mirror. Archant has also recently cut staff amid falling circulation.

Mr. Kelly is convinced that pop-up papers with a clear agenda are the future. For example, when singer David Bowie died, Mr. Kelly said a pop-up paper focusing on his life and career could have run for a few weeks or months. And he’s convinced there’s a market for a feminist paper.

“Newspapers are much quicker to produce than a website,” he explained. “Everyone talks about the agility of digital, but there’s nothing quicker and more agile than a newspaper. And people will pay for a newspaper in a way they won’t pay for digital.” There’s also a lot of free publicity, he added. “People will talk about any idiot who is stupid enough to launch a national newspaper in 2018. They wouldn’t care if I launched a website.”

But he’s also realistic about the paper’s future and makes it clear that, as with any pop-up, its life could end. “When this thing becomes unprofitable, we will stop printing it."

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