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The European Parliament in Brussels, the only directly elected law-making institution of the EU (photo: European Parliament multimedia centre).

Election results show country remains divided over Brexit

The outcome of the elections for the European Parliament shows the country as divided as ever over Brexit, with the newly formed Brexit Party emerging as the single largest party taking the largest proportion of votes though less than the remainer LibDems and Greens combined. Both Tories and Labour suffered large losses. Nick Terdre reports.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, formed only six weeks ago, won 31.6% of the votes and 29 of the 73 European Parliament seats up for election, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 20.3% of votes and 16 seats, up from one.

The Brexit Party won in all regions of England except London, where the LibDems topped the poll with three of the eight seats, and Scotland, where they came second to the SNP which took three of the six seats and 37.8% of the votes.

The Greens, the only party to make the climate emergency an election issue, also returned a very encouraging result, with 12.1% of the votes and seven seats, up from three. They came in fourth behind Labour, whose vote fell by almost 45% and whose seats were halved to 10.

Meanwhile the Conservatives’ vote was cut by almost two thirds to 9.1% and their seats from 15 to four. Farage’s former party Ukip lost all its 24 seats while the newly formed pro-remain Change Party formed of Labour and Tory dissidents also failed to win a seat.

Together the LibDems and Greens polled 5.39 million votes, against the Brexit Party’s 5.25 million.

Low turnout

Despite unusually high interest in the election due to the Brexit factor, the turnout was a disappointing 37%, well below the EU average of 51% and the 88% clocked in Belgium. It was also little over half of the turnout for the 2016 EU referendum.

Catherine Bearder, the LibDems only incumbent MEP, now joined by 14 others.

Catherine Bearder, the LibDems only incumbent MEP, now joined by 14 others.

The national pattern was largely replicated in the South East, where the Brexit Party won four seats, the LibDems three and the Greens, Tories and Labour one each. With 13.5% of the vote, the Greens were the third largest party, ahead of both Tories and Labour.

Elected as South East MEPs for five-year terms for the Brexit Party: Nigel Farage, Alexandra Phillips, Robert Rowland and Belinda de Lucy; for the LibDems: Catherine Bearder, Antony Hook and Judith Bunting; for the Greens: Alexandra Phillips (not to be confused with the eponymous Brexit Party MEP); for the Tories: Daniel Hannan and for Labour: John Howarth.

In Hastings the Brexit Party was the clear winner, with 8,977 votes. The Greens shaded second place, with 4,480, just ahead of the LibDems with 4,415. Mr Farage said his party would now aim to win the Peterborough byelection next month, and urged supporters to prepare for a possible general election.

Alexandra Phillips was elected as Green MEP for the South East.

Alexandra Phillips was elected as Green MEP for the South East.

The Greens’ Ms Phillips told HOT: “The Green Party had a truly phenomenal night, picking up the highest percentage of the vote share we’ve ever had in the South East. By finishing third, we successfully squeezed both Labour and the Tories into fourth and fifth place.

“Across the UK, over two million people cast a vote for hope by backing the Green Party. By voting for remaining in the EU and to stop climate change, this sends a strong message that people are hungry for a positive change in our politics.

“There should be no doubt that the South East made its voice clear, with the ardently pro-EU parties scooping 40% of the vote compared to the Brexit Party’s 35% vote share. Opinions are changing and it’s time to put the question of EU membership back to the people and let them have the final say.”

LibDems claim best ever result

On behalf of the LibDems, Nick Perry, former parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye and the party’s number 9 MEP candidate at the election, said: “Our vote share increased in Hastings alone by a whopping 13.6%. This is our best ever result locally, regionally and nationally.”

Pointing out that the party took a clear second place in Rother District, he claimed that, “We are clearly the number one party for Remainers right across the Hastings & Rye seat, and will continue to do everything that we can to stop Brexit!”

The Europe-wide Liberal group is now the third largest grouping in the European Parliament, he noted.

Labour backs second referendum

Labour’s dismal performance, not least in Scotland where it lost both its seats and polled less than 10%, has finally pushed leader Jeremy Corbyn to accept a second referendum on any proposed deal.

Labour’ s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, Peter Chowney, commented: “The day after the last referendum, I said that I thought there would be another referendum, and that still looks to me to be the most likely outcome. I think the Labour Party should commit to that now, unless there is a general election in the short term.

“A no-deal Brexit would have to be an option on the ballot paper, but we’d have to campaign hard to make sure people understood the consequences of that, and it didn’t happen.”

Although many in the Labour Party continue to call for a general election, Mr Chowney doubted that one was imminent. “An election in the short term is unlikely, I think, as it would require a two-thirds majority in parliament. I’d also be concerned that the election would be dominated by Brexit, and all the other important issues wouldn’t get properly discussed,” he said.

MP Amber Rudd told HOT, “The result of the European Elections was a clear message to get on with Brexit. I believe our Party can deliver on the referendum result while ensuring we are not cut off from Europe and the rest of the world.

“It is important that our next leader recognises this and takes us out of the EU with a deal that protects businesses, jobs and our national security.”

 

The article was amended by Nick Terdre on 29 and 30 May 2019.

Posted 21:55 Tuesday, May 28, 2019 In: Politics

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    The Brexit party won all the seats in all regions except for London so how can the author of this article say the country remains divided? Depends on what you describe as ‘divided’ I suppose but it is clear the country remains convinced that LEAVE means LEAVE – that is obvious from the results of the EU elections. How else would the polls show that the Brexit party is ahead of all the other parties and could perhaps end up leading this country if there is a general election? Explain that one please. The Tory party and the Labour party have only themselves to blame for their low readings in the polls. They have surely been taught a lesson of some value here. Dont mess with the British public.
    And its not surprising to learn that the leader of our council here in Hastings would like a second referendum! Its a wonder he didn’t demand a recount when Amber Rudd won the last election down here…or maybe he did and I missed that.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Jun 3, 2019 @ 08:43

  2. Rachel Lever

    No, the Euro elections didn’t “finally push leader Jeremy Corbyn to accept a second referendum on any proposed deal”. This has been Labour policy since last year’s Conference in September, now spelled out as a “confirmatory vote”. It is not Labour’s policy that a “no deal” Brexit would have to be an option in that vote. We could by now have had such a vote if Theresa May had been willing to work out a compromise deal with MPs leaning to Remain.

    Comment by Rachel Lever — Sunday, Jun 2, 2019 @ 21:38

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