2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom

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2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom

← 2014 23 May 2019

All 73 United Kingdom seats to the European Parliament
  Jeremy Corbyn Theresa May Nigel Farage
Leader Jeremy Corbyn Theresa May Nigel Farage
Party Labour Conservative Brexit Party
Alliance S&D ECR EFDD
Last election 20 seats, 24.4% 19 seats, 23.1% New party
Current seats 18 18 14

  Gerard Batten
Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley
Nicola Sturgeon
Leader Gerard Batten Jonathan Bartley and Siân Berry Nicola Sturgeon
Party UKIP Green SNP
Alliance ENF (2)
NI (1)
Greens-EFA Greens-EFA
Last election 24 seats, 26.6% 3 seats, 6.9% 2 seats, 2.4%
Current seats 3 3 2

  Heidi Allen Vince Cable
Leader Heidi Allen
(interim)
Vince Cable
Party Change UK Liberal Democrat
Alliance EPP[a] ALDE
Last election New party 1 seat, 6.6%
Current seats 2 1

The United Kingdom's component of the 2019 European Parliament election is due to be held on Thursday 23 May 2019.[1] Initially, the elections were not planned as the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union (following the 2016 referendum) was set for 29 March 2019. However, the British government and the European Council agreed to delay Brexit at the European summit on 11 April. While it is the default position in UK and EU law for the election to take place, the UK Government is continuing attempts to avoid participation by agreeing withdrawal before 23 May.[2]

If the elections go ahead, it will be the ninth time the United Kingdom elects MEPs to the European Parliament (fourth for Gibraltar). Candidate nominations must be submitted by 4pm on 25 April 2019, and voter registration must be completed by 7 May 2019.[3][4]

It is uncertain for how long, if at all, British MEPs will sit before the withdrawal process is complete, as the extension agreement provides for early termination as soon as the withdrawal agreement is ratified.[5] The UK's withdrawal from the European Union is expected to be the central issue of the election campaign.[6]

Constituencies[edit]

UK European Parliament constituency.svg

The United Kingdom is divided into 12 multi-member constituencies: the nine regions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Gibraltar is assigned to the South West England constituency.

The allocation of seats between constituencies has not changed since 2014.

Electoral method[edit]

In Great Britain, candidates stand either on a party list, in a set order of priority (known as a closed list), or individually. The seats are then allocated proportionally to the share of votes cast for each party or individual candidate in the electoral region, using the D'Hondt method of calculation: each new seat is given to the party or individual candidate with the greatest number of votes divided by the number of those already allocated plus one.[7]

The Northern Ireland constituency uses Single Transferable Vote (STV) to allocate its three MEPs.

Background[edit]

Expected cancellation and contingency planning[edit]

The United Kingdom invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union on 29 March 2017 following a referendum on 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union. As a result, the country was due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, before the European Parliament elections took place. Nonetheless, on 27 May 2018, it was reported that the UK's Electoral Commission had set aside £829,000 for its "activities relating to a European Parliamentary election in 2019". The Commission described the money as a "precautionary measure, so that we have the necessary funds to deliver our functions at a European Parliamentary election, in the unlikely event that they do go ahead".[8][9][10]

The European Parliament resolution of 7 February 2018 on the composition of the European Parliament (2017/2054(INL) – 2017/0900(NLE)) included these clauses:

  • H7 refers to the re-allocation of some UK seats following the UK withdrawal from the EU, stating: "Underlines that the seats to be vacated by the United Kingdom upon its withdrawal from the European Union will facilitate the adoption of a new allocation of seats in Parliament, which will implement the principle of degressive proportionality; further underlines that the new allocation proposed would allow for a reduction in the size of Parliament; notes that the use of only a fraction of the seats vacated by the United Kingdom is sufficient to ensure no loss of seats for any Member State".
  • H6 has a contingency for the situation that the UK does not leave the EU before the 2019 election, stating that "in case the above mentioned legal situation concerning the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union changes, the allocation of seats applied during the 2014–2019 parliamentary term should apply until the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union becomes legally effective".[11]

The European Council also drew up contingency plans allowing the UK to retain its MEPs should Brexit be postponed:[12]

However, in the event that the United Kingdom is still a Member State of the Union at the beginning of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, the number of representatives in the European Parliament per Member State taking up office shall be the one provided for in Article 3 of the European Council Decision 2013/312/EU until the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union becomes legally effective.[13]

Official preparations begin[edit]

After Brexit was delayed beyond its initial planned date of 29 March 2019, the possibility of a sufficiently long delay so as to require the elections to take place became more apparent. The period for withdrawal under Article 50 was first extended, with the unanimous approval of the European Council, until 12 April 2019[14] — the deadline for informing the EU of the intention to hold elections.[15] By early April, the House of Commons had voted again to extend the withdrawal period, and a deadline of 31 October 2019 was agreed between the UK and the Council. The UK Government therefore ordered preparations for the election.[16]

Nevertheless, ratification of a withdrawal agreement by the UK and European parliaments would still permit the UK to leave before October. If this occurs before 23 May, the United Kingdom and Gibraltar will not take part in the 2019 European Parliament elections scheduled for May 2019.

The deadline for candidate nominations was 24 April for the South West England region and is 25 April for all other regions.[17]

Campaign background[edit]

The two major UK political parties see the prospect of elections for the European Parliament (while the UK is due to leave the European Union) as problematic, with both keen to avoid this scenario.[18] The backdrop of ongoing debate around Brexit is expected to be very significant in how people vote, with the election expected to be seen by some as a "proxy referendum" on whether the country should leave the EU or not.[6] Commentators suggest that the vote share for the two biggest UK parties, the Conservatives and Labour, could fall, with voters moving towards a number of pro-Leave or pro-Remain parties. The election is seen as being significant for two new parties, the Brexit Party (supporting Brexit) and Change UK - The Independent Group (supporting the UK remaining in the EU).[19][6]

Candidates[edit]

In April 2019, Labour said it had started its process for choosing candidates.[20][21] 16 out of the 20 MEPs elected last time have applied to stand again.[22] The party's candidates were announced on 18 April and include the former Cabinet minister Andrew Adonis, the former MP Katy Clark and the national co-ordinator of campaigning group Momentum Laura Parker.[23][24]

Following the prospect of a delay to Brexit, Conservative Party MEPs were asked by their delegation leader if they would consider standing again if there were a delay that would mean the UK staying in the EU beyond the date of the next European Parliament election.[25][26] Fifteen of the party's eighteen MEPs stood again as lead candidates for their respective regions.[27]

The Brexit Party are planning to run candidates for all seventy seats available in Great Britain, with leader Nigel Farage, himself a former UKIP leader, standing in the South East England region and former Conservative candidate Annunziata Rees-Mogg standing in the East Midlands region.[19][28][29] Also standing is writer Claire Fox, formerly of the Revolutionary Communist Party.[30]

The UK Independence Party selected its three remaining MEPs as candidates, along with anti-feminist social media activist Carl Benjamin and Scottish YouTuber Mark Meechan.[31][32]

The Green Party of England and Wales and the corresponding party in Scotland began their candidate selection process in March.[33][34] The Green Party of England and Wales announced a full slate of candidates for England and Wales including current MEP Molly Scott Cato and former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr. Magid Magid.[35]

The Liberal Democrats announced their selected candidates for England and Wales on 17 April 2019 following a membership vote. The party's sole incumbent MEP, Catherine Bearder, was re-selected as its lead candidate for South East England, while former MEPs Chris Davies, Fiona Hall, Bill Newton Dunn and Phil Bennion were selected as lead candidates for their respective regions. Other candidates include the entrepreneur Dinesh Dhamija and the former leader of the People's Alliance of Tower Hamlets, Rabina Khan in London, and former MPs Martin Horwood and Stephen Williams in the South West. The party is also standing a full slate in Scotland.[36]

Change UK said it had had 3,700 applicants to be candidates, including former MPs from both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.[37] Their candidates include writer Rachel Johnson (sister of Conservative MP Boris Johnson and formerly of the Liberal Democrats); former BBC journalist Gavin Esler;[30] former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell; former Conservative MP Neil Carmichael; former Labour MEP Carole Tongue; former Labour MPs Roger Casale and Jon Owen Jones; former Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis;[38] and former deputy Prime Minister of Poland Jacek Rostowski.[39] They are standing 70 candidates (i.e. all of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland).[30]

Jill Evans, Plaid Cymru's sole MEP, is standing as the party's lead candidate as part of a full slate for the Wales constituency.[40]

Also standing are Our Nation, founded by another former UKIP leader, Henry Bolton.[22]

Patrick O'Flynn, the Social Democratic Party's sole MEP, having been elected as a UKIP candidate, stated in April 2019 that the SDP will not be standing candidates at the election.[41]

British satirical political candidate, "Lord Buckethead", has stated he intends to run against Nigel Farage in the Election for the South East, and has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for both the deposit and for campaigning.[42]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Northern Ireland has a different political context to Great Britain, with mostly different parties traditionally standing, and a different electoral system.

On 14 April 2019, Sinn Féin selected sitting MEP Martina Anderson as its candidate.[43] The Democratic Unionist Party have selected their sitting MEP Diane Dodds.[44]

The SDLP selected Colum Eastwood.[45] Naomi Long been selected as the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland candidate.[46][47] The Green Party of Northern Ireland are intending to stand a candidate.[44] UK Independence Party nominated Robert Hill as their candidate in the region on 18 April 2019.[48]

In April 2019, Jane Morrice, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and a former deputy speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, announced that she would stand as an independent in the Northern Ireland constituency on a pro-Remain platform.[49]

Campaign[edit]

There has been debate within Labour as to what their policy should be with respect to Brexit. On 20 April, the party's deputy leader Tom Watson argued they needed to back a second referendum on Brexit in order to present a clear alternative to and beat the Brexit Party, but that is not currently the party's preferred option.[50]

A survey of 781 Conservative Party councillors found that 40% plan to vote for the Brexit Party.[51] Conservative councillors in Derbyshire are boycotting the European elections and refusing to campaign in protest over the government's failure to deliver Brexit.[52]

UKIP argue they are the "the authentic party of Brexit, the true party of Leave", to quote party leader Gerard Batten.[53] UKIP are also the only Brexit-supporting party fielding a candidate in every region of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.[41] Batten has criticised the rival Brexit Party as having no policies. UKIP launched their campaign on 18 April, but there was renewed criticism surrounding the second candidate on their list, Carl Benjamin for making a "I wouldn't even rape you" jibe aimed at Jess Phillips in May 2016.[54][55] Further controversy came as on of UKIP's sitting MEPs Stuart Agnew addressed a pro-apartheid club of expat South Africans in London that reportedly has links to the far-right.[56]

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party and former UKIP leader, said that there was "no difference between the Brexit party and UKIP in terms of policy, [but] in terms of personnel, there's a vast difference", criticising UKIP's connections to the far right.[57] On 15 April 2019, three more sitting female UKIP MEPs defected to the Brexit Party, criticising UKIP's nomination of Benjamin as a candidate. In particular, Collins noted UKIP leader Gerard Batten's defence of Benjamin's "use of a non-rape threat as 'satire'" to be an especially compelling factor.[58] Two further UKIP MEPs moved to the Brexit Party on 17 April. Former Labour and Respect Party MP George Galloway also announced his support for the Brexit Party on 17 April.[59] On 23 April, Farage said that the Brexit Party was not "here just to get a process vote on 23 May – far from it, 23 May for us is just the beginning."[60] He also argued that the better the performance of the Brexit Party, the lower the chance of a second referendum on Brexit.[61]

The three main nationwide pro-European parties standing in the election, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Change UK, wish to treat this election as a "soft referendum" on Europe.[62] Commentators, such as Marina Hyde, have raised the concern of a split vote among pro-Remain parties reducing the number of pro-Remain MEPs being elected.[63][64] Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, proposed standing joint candidates with the Greens and Change UK on a common policy of seeking a second referendum on Brexit, but the other parties rejected the idea.[65] Change UK's co-founder Chuka Umunna confirmed the LibDem approach, but he[64] and Change UK leader Heidi Allen dismissed concerns of a split Remain vote.[66] Change UK MEP Girling said she had decided not to stand for re-election because of the concern about maximising the Remain vote.[67]

The Liberal Democrats are seeking the support of those who wish the UK to remain in the EU.[19]

Change UK see the elections as an important launchpad for their new party,[6] seeking to turn the election into a "proxy referendum" on Brexit.[68] On 16 April 2019, two former Conservative MEPs, who had left the party to sit as independents within the European People's Party grouping, joined Change UK.[69] The Renew Party agreed to support Change UK – The Independent Group at the elections, and the latter are including candidates from Renew's approved list.[70] Molly Scott Cato, a sitting Green Party of England & Wales MEP, criticised Change UK as "a single-issue party with no coherent policy platform beyond opposing Brexit".[71]

The DUP are campaigning on sending a message to "get on with Brexit".[72]

The Scottish Greens are campaigning to replace Scotland's current Brexit Party MEP, David Coburn.[73]

Party Brexit positions[edit]

Party Brexit position
Brexit Pro-Brexit, against withdrawal agreement
Change UK Anti-Brexit, favours second referendum
Conservative Pro-Brexit, in favour of withdrawal agreement
Democratic Unionist Pro-Brexit, against withdrawal agreement
Green (E&W) Anti-Brexit, favours second referendum
Labour Customs union with EU or, if not, "confirmatory referendum"[74]
Liberal Democrats Anti-Brexit, favours second referendum
Plaid Cymru Anti-Brexit, favours second referendum
SNP Anti-Brexit, favours second referendum
Sinn Féin Anti-Brexit, but supports withdrawal agreement[75][76]
UKIP Pro-Brexit, against withdrawal agreement
Ulster Unionist Pro-Brexit, against withdrawal agreement[77][78]

Party affiliation of MEPs before the 2019 election[edit]

Between the 2014 and 2019 elections, there were many changes to the breakdown of UK members, due to defections, and changes in affiliation.

MEPs from UKIP are spread over different factions of Parliament.

Party Faction in European Parliament
Labour Party 18   Socialists and Democrats 185
Conservative Party 18 European Conservatives and Reformists 74
Brexit Party 14 Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy 43
Independent 4 2 Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy 43
1   Europe of Nations and Freedom 36
1 Non-Inscrits 21
UK Independence Party 3 2   Europe of Nations and Freedom 36
1 Non-Inscrits 21
Green Party of England and Wales 3 Greens–European Free Alliance 52
Change UK 2   European People's Party 218
Scottish National Party 2 Greens–European Free Alliance 52
Plaid Cymru 1 Greens–European Free Alliance 52
Liberal Democrats 1   Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 68
Social Democratic Party 1 Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy 43
Ulster Unionist Party 1 European Conservatives and Reformists 74
Sinn Féin 1   European United Left–Nordic Green Left 52
Democratic Unionist Party 1 Non-Inscrits 21
vacant 2   vacant 2
Total 73 Total 750

Constituencies and representation[edit]

As has been the case since 1999, the electoral constituencies are based on the government's nine English regions, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, creating a total of 12 constituencies. The seat allocation has been the same since 2008:

Constituency MEPs On election day (2014) At the end of parliament (2019)
East Midlands 5    
East of England 7    
London 8    
North East England 3    
North West England 8    
South East England 10
South West England1 6    
West Midlands 7    
Yorkshire and the Humber2 6    
Scotland3 6    
Wales 4    
Northern Ireland 3    

1 Includes Gibraltar, the only British overseas territory which is part of the European Union.

2 One seat in Yorkshire and the Humber has been vacant since Linda McAvan (Labour) stepped down on 18 April 2019.[80]

3 One seat in Scotland has been vacant since Catherine Stihler (Labour) stepped down on 31 January 2019.

This table shows the number of MEPs in each party:

Affiliation Members
At 2014 election At dissolution Change
Conservative 19 18 Decrease 1
Labour 20 18 Decrease 2
Brexit Party 0 14 Increase 14
  Independent 0 5 Increase 5
Green 3 3 Steady
UKIP 24 3 Decrease 21
Change UK – TIG 0 2 Increase 2
SNP 2 2 Steady
DUP 1 1 Steady
Liberal Democrat 1 1 Steady
Plaid Cymru 1 1 Steady
Sinn Féin 1 1 Steady
SDP 0 1 Increase 1
UUP 1 1 Steady
Vacant seats 0 2 Increase 2
Total 73 73 Steady

Opinion polls[edit]

Before the April delay, a number of polls asked respondents to imagine a hypothetical scenario where European elections take place. Number Cruncher Politics warned that opinion could move significantly if such a situation actually comes about.[81]

Great Britain[edit]

Opinion polling chart for the 2019 EP elections.
Date(s) Polling organisation/client Sample UKIP Lab Con Lib Dem Green SNP Plaid Cymru Brexit Change UK Others Lead
16-17 Apr YouGov/The Times 1,755 6% 22% 17% 9% 10% 5% 23% 8% 0% 1%
16 Apr ComRes/Brexit Express 1,061 5% 33% 18% 9% 5% 4% 0% 17% 9% 0% 15%
15-16 Apr YouGov/People's Vote 1,855 7% 22% 15% 9% 10% 3% 1% 27% 6% 1% 5%
9–12 Apr Opinium/Observer 2,007 13% 29% 17% 10% 6% 6% 1% 12% 4% 2% 12%
10–11 Apr YouGov/Times 1,843 14% 24% 16% 8% 8% 5% 1% 15% 7% 1% 8%
5–8 Apr Hanbury Strategy/Open Europe 2,000 7% 38% 23% 8% 4% 4% 0% 10% 4% 1% 15%
28–30 Mar Opinium/Observer 2,008 18% 30% 24% 10% 8% 4% 1% 5% 6%
22 Mar Nigel Farage becomes leader of the new Brexit Party
12–15 Mar Opinium/Observer 2,008 17% 29% 28% 11% 6% 4% 1% 5% 1%
10–17 Jan Number Cruncher Politics/Politico 1,030 10% 37% 36% 8% 5% 3% 1% 1% 1%
22 May 2014 2014 EU election (GB) Results 16,017,366 27.5% 25.4% 23.9% 6.6% 7.9%[b] 2.5% 0.7% N/A N/A 5.5% 2.1%

Northern Ireland[edit]

Two polls will be conducted by LucidTalk in May.[82]

European Parliament[edit]

Based on polls in the UK, organisations have started calculating the theoretical seat distribution in the European Parliament, if the UK was to participate in the European elections. (See 2019 European Parliament election for a general overview)

Date(s) Source UKIP Lab Con Lib Dem Green SNP Plaid Cymru Brexit Change UK Others Lead
22 April EuropeanElectionsStats.eu 4 21 13 6 5 3 15 6 0 6

Members of the European Parliament not standing for re-election[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ With respect to the current affiliation of the two MEPs who have defected to the party
  2. ^ 2014 result is the collective vote share of the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Green Party.

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  82. ^ LucidTalk (12 April 2019). "NI Euro Election - 23/5 (if it happens!): LT will be running 2 major NI Tracker polls (a) 3rd-6th May (results 8th/9th May) & (b) 16th-18th May (results 20th/21st May). Like to take part? but not yet a member of the LT NI Opinion Panel? - then join here: https://www.lucidtalk.co.uk/opinion-panel-polling ….pic.twitter.com/lufMkHbPwl". External link in |title= (help)
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  84. ^ Powell, Luke (9 April 2019). "Tory MEP will not stand in European elections due to Brexit delay". Eastern Daily Press.
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  86. ^ Gordon, Tom (18 April 2019). "Brussels vacancy opens up as SNP MEP retires". The Herald.
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  88. ^ a b "Two MEPs won't run in Euro elections". 15 April 2019 – via www.bbc.co.uk.

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