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Analysis

European elections in the UK – bring them on!

by Quentin Peel | 26.03.2019

If Brexit is to be put back to the people, as public opinion is increasingly demanding, the Article 50 deadline will have to be extended beyond the April 12 date agreed at the European Council summit last week. And that, the EU has made clear, will mean UK participation in the election of MEPs to the European Parliament. Pro-Europeans should welcome this prospect with open arms.

It is not just a People’s Vote that requires an extension. Any proposal that isn’t May’s deal, no deal or outright revocation will need one. The prime minister clearly hates the idea. “A slow Brexit which forces the British people to take part in European elections… is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together,” she said in Parliament.

Both pro-Brexit Conservatives and many in the Labour party are also unhappy. They worry elections would expose the deep divisions in party ranks, and force them to define a position towards the EU that they are still desperate to avoid.

Yet all those on the pro-European side of the argument – the Lib Dems, the Independent Group, the Greens, the SNP and other nationalist parties – should welcome the prospect. The proportional representation system that applies to the European elections would open the door to many MEPs from smaller parties. It is a chance to set out all the arguments against Brexit, and demonstrate that UKIP and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party are in disarray.

Labour too shouldn’t fear the elections. Their voters are overwhelmingly in favour of a People’s Vote and staying in the EU. This weekend Keir Starmer suggested that Labour could fight a snap general election on a manifesto calling for a “confirmatory vote” on Brexit. Why not extend that idea to European elections to test how popular the policy is?

Recent YouGov polling also suggests a strong turnout of pro-European voters. 55% of people who voted Remain in 2016 say they would definitely vote, compared to 40% of Leavers. What’s more, 20% of Leavers said they definitely wouldn’t vote versus just 6% of Remain voters. The shambles of Brexit has galvanised pro-EU forces across the UK, and now is the time to prove it.

There are also legal and democratic arguments for taking part. Electing MEPs is a right of all EU citizens, not a convenience for political parties. That includes the 3 million non-British EU citizens living in the UK.

The UK’s Electoral Commission has the budget set aside to hold the elections, and has contingency plans to do so. But they would have to be decided on by April 12, with nominations of candidates by April 25.

All those who want to stop Brexit, stay in the EU and hold a People’s Vote to ensure such a decision is democratic, should welcome the opportunity these elections offer, and start preparing for them now.

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Published and promoted by Hugo Dixon on behalf of Referendum Facts Ltd., Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “European elections in the UK – bring them on!”

  • Indeed! Pro-Europeans could vote massively in favour of pro-Europe candidates. It is to be expected that Leavers will vote in favour of Leave candidates. But the proportional representation system would guarantee a very strong presence of pro Europe MEPS in the European Parliament.

  • Agreed, should seize the day and make a virtue of necessity. Leavers will not show much interest. In theory a few could join in order to sabotage the EU, a la Farage, but unlikely.

  • I agree wholeheartedly. May’s twisted logic that it is bad to vote in the EU elections is unacceptable. It shows her antidemocratic tendencies in their true colours. Participation would make for good practice for a PV too.

  • Can’t agree more. Let’s have pro European candidates who will bring back a taste of democracy to the UK. Not the spiteful and unhelpful rhetoric of the Boris’s of this world.