With the 2019 European Union Elections results announced, Brig takes a look at the election that was billed as a second referendum and asks What Happens Next?
Final Result (UK)
Brexit Party: 31.69% Seats: 29
Lib Dem: 20.3% (+13.9) Seats: 16
Labour: 14.08(-11.3) Seats: 10
Green: 12.09% (+4.23) Seats: 7
Conservatives: 8.68% (-14.84) Seats: 4
UKIP: 3.3 (-24.19) Seats: 0
SNP: 3.6% (+1.1) Seats: 3
With the final results of the 2019 European Parliament Elections just announced, both Remainers and Leavers have declared victory in what some billed a second referendum.
With Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party taking 32% of the vote, it’s easy to declare a hard Brexit the real winner of this election. But Remainers have highlighted that with the Liberal Democrats achieving second place (18.6%), ahead of Labour’s 14.1% and the Green’s 11.1%, more votes actually went to pro-EU parties than pro-Brexit parties.
This is a losing game analysis which only highlights the divisions of the electorate right now. What then to make of the Conservative Party’s 8.7% vote share? And how to translate a vote for Labour given their evasive stance on Brexit?
The strongest conclusion to be drawn is that the parties with the clearest positions on Brexit easily outperformed those whose messaging was muddled. So, a clear win for the Brexit Party whose hard-line stance trounced the Conservative’s paralysed negotiations; and for the Liberal Democrats, their best performance in years after London Remainers rewarded them for throwing their weight behind a second referendum.
The Greens also made a strong showing, with a 4.23% rise in their vote share causing the Conservatives to fall into an embarrassing fifth place.
So what does this mean?
Arguably the country is more polarised than ever. The traditional left-right division has been replaced by remain/ leave, much in the same way that the Unionist/ Nationalist split now dominates Scotland. And, as in Scotland, it is the smaller, newer parties such as the Greens who are benefitting, whilst the old guard within Labour and the Conservatives struggle to catch up.
With the Conservative leadership contest about to begin, all eyes will be on candidates with strong, clear positions on Brexit, and particularly those who favour a hard Brexit.
Look out for Raab, McVey or Javid,
Likewise, Labour will have to get off the fence quickly – expect increased calls for Jeremy Corbyn to step down after this poor performance.
What about Scotland?
With the results for Scotland now being finalised, the SNP have emerged victorious with 37.84% of the Scottish vote. Behind them is the Brexit Party with 14.83%, reflecting the UK trend of the most pro and anti-EU parties being the biggest winners.
Labour suffered heavy losses as it won just 9.3% of the vote. The party now falls into fifth place and will lose both their MEPs, including the UK’s longest serving MEP, David Martin.
The Liberal Democrats took 13.89% and the Conservatives 11.61%. Interestingly, where the Lib Dems were able to claim to be the most pro-European party in England, the SNP had the upper hand in Scotland as they argued the Lib Dem’s support for the union endangered Scotland’s place in Europe.
Nicola Sturgeon has praised the ‘historic’ victory for the SNP as they cruised their way to their best result ever for the EU elections. Expect Sturgeon to use this result to bolster her call for another independence referendum.
Europe actually reflects the UK’s results somewhat, with big wins for both nationalist, anti-EU parties and Greens.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally (formerly the Front National) is ahead with 23.3% of the vote . Just behind is President Macron’s La Republique En Marche with 22.5% and the Greens have come a surprise third with 13.47%.
In Italy, it was the far- right leader Matteo Salvini’s turn to celebrate as his League Party took 34.3% of the vote. This puts them ahead of the Five Star Movement who came third with 17% and the Democratic Party (23%).
Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party came first with 23.3%, while the La Republique En Marche movement of President Emmanuel Macron is second with 22.4%.
The National Rally, then-known as the Front National, also won the EU election in 2014 while Macron’s movement did not exist then.
The Green party surprised to clinch the third place with 13.47% of the vote.
The Greens have performed extremely well, doubling their percentage of the vote to 20.5% and taking second place behind the ruling CDU/ CSU alliance led by Angela Merkel. The anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany achieved fourth place with 11%.
Elections for the European Parliament take place across the 28 member states, and is the biggest trans-national election in the world. Like in the UK, results reflect domestic politics as well as issues surrounding the EU, and should be read as such.
That said, it’s worth noting that in a time of crisis for the EU, projections have pro-EU parties taking two-third of the seats. There’s still a large increase for anti-EU and far right parties, and their voice is likely to be louder during this time of upheaval in Europe.
What can we expect?
More noise, for a start. More infighting in parties in the UK as Brexit dominates the agenda. Further afield, expect more countries to face calls for referendums on EU membership, with Italy in particular battling a strong nationalist movement.
However, don’t overlook the Green surge either; this is a time of change in Europe and it’s consistent that parties far from the centre are the biggest winners.
EU elections are not generally indicative of national elections and the results emerging after this vote will not necessarily translate to a General Election. That said, the result will be watched closely by Tory leadership contenders and will undoubtably influence the stance they take on Brexit.
Interesting times lie ahead.
Feature image credit: Pexels