UK (and other countries) European Union election results

Conservatives and Labour both smashed in the UK’s European Union elections; Theresa May to resign on June 7. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

At the UK’s European Union elections held on May 23, Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party won 29 of the 73 seats, the Liberal Democrats 16 seats (up 15 since the 2014 EU elections), Labour ten (down ten), the Greens seven (up four) and the Conservatives just four seats (down 15).  Scottish and Welsh nationalists won four seats (up one).  The UK Independence Party (UKIP) lost its 24 seats.

Vote shares were 31.6% Brexit party, 20.3% Lib Dems (up 13.4%), 14.1% Labour (down 11.3%), 12.1% Greens (up 4.2%), 9.1% Conservatives (down 14.9%), 4.6% for Scottish and Welsh nationalists (up 1.4%), 3.4% Change UK – the pro-Remain party formed from Labour and Conservative splitter MPs, and 3.3% UKIP (down 24.2%).

Counting Brexit party and UKIP as hard Brexit parties and the Lib Dems, Greens, nationalists and Change UK as Remain parties, pro-Remain parties won a total 40.4% and hard Brexit 34.9%.  The Conservatives and Labour, who were punished for their ambiguous positions on Brexit, won a combined 23.2%.

On May 24 – the day after the UK’s EU elections – Theresa May announced she would resign as Conservative leader on June 7.  She will not resign as PM until a new leader has been elected.  Nominations for leader close in the week beginning June 10, and Conservative MPs will winnow the field down to two candidates by the end of June.  The final two go to the hard Brexit-supporting Conservative membership, with the result due by mid-July.

There are a total of 313 Conservative MPs.  To be mathematically assured of making the final two, a candidate needs 105 votes – just over one-third.  On March 27, 157 Conservative MPs supported an amendment that would have forced a no-deal Brexit, so it seems virtually certain that a hard Brexiteer will be one of the final two.  If the membership vote is between a hard Brexiteer and a more moderate candidate, it is very likely that the hard Brexiteer will win.

The EU election results are likely to push Labour into a more pro-Remain position, while the Conservatives, under a new leader, become a hard Brexit party.  Theresa May preferred a long Brexit extension (to October 31) to a no-deal Brexit; parliament did not force her to accept the extension.  With a hard Brexiteer as PM, parliament will need to do something drastic to avoid a no-deal Brexit, such as a no-confidence vote or revocation of Brexit.  Parliament has shown no inclination for something like this.

Greens and Liberals perform well in overall EU results

According to Europe Elects, the centre-right European faction won 165 of the 751 EU parliament seats (down 56 from 2014), the centre-left won 141 (down 50), Liberals 115 (up 48), the far-right (including Brexit party) 103 (up 18), the Greens 75 (up 25), national conservatives 57 (down 13) and the far-left 42 (down 10).  The Romanian centre-left party (eight seats) and the Hungarian centre-right party (13 seats) are not being counted with their factions as they could be booted.  Hungary’s Fidesz under Viktor Orbán is a far-right party, not a centre-right party.

It takes 376 seats to win a majority in the European parliament.  The left parties plus the Liberals, including the Romanian centre left, add to 381 seats.  The respectable right parties plus the Liberals add to 337 seats.  If the Liberals were to join a right coalition, it would need to include far-right parties that the Liberals vehemently oppose.  So I think the left has won the 2019 European parliamentary elections.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

41 comments on “UK (and other countries) European Union election results”

  1. “So I think the left has won the 2019 European parliamentary elections.”
    I think that is on paper only. There is a splintering under way that may create some future confusion in this parliament. I would say this movement is only the beginning.

  2. ROFLMAO @ “Change UK – the pro-Remain party formed from Labour and Conservative splitter MPs” who ended up with no seats.

    Not a sausage.

    Bugger all.

    That bodes well for them at the next UK general election. The best they’ll manage is if they get their deposits back, although I doubt most of them will manage even that.

  3. Yep, as I have been posting in The Guardian comments, this has been a smashing victory for Remain!
    It’s 40.7% for the pro-Brexit parties and 54.5% for the pro-Remain parties. Now that the Tories have been miniaturised, they better try to do all what they can to neutralise the ascendance of Farage’s Brexit party. A new referendum that will be won by Remain will end (over time) Farage’s career and therefore this Brexit total nonsense. Note that both the Brexit party and before it the UKIP are fully reliant on Farage. UKIP shrunk to nothing without Farage and the Brexit party will disappear, along with Farage, once Remain wins a second referendum.

  4. Farrage and Brexitism will not disappear in the event of a Remain victory at a “second”* referendum as Farrage and Co will bleat endlessly about the referendum being held at all.

    * Given the 1975 Referendum on EEC membership, it could be argued that 2016 was the second referendum and that the next referendum would be the third.

  5. Only a fool would dismiss Brexit and Farrage.
    This sounds like a ‘let them eat cake’ understanding of what is happening.

  6. It does seem like more voters voted for remain than leave, but the turnout was very small, just over half the number of votes cast as the EU referendum and a lot less than would vote in a general election.
    I don’t think the leave side ever had a true majority of voters even though they won the referendum last time. It seems there was an element of protest and anti politician factors that helped leave win.
    I would expect remain to win another referendum but I highly doubt there will be another referendum.

  7. I expect at the first referendum there was a lot of fear about brexit.
    But now people are used to the result, the idea, that the fear level has dissipated quite a lot.
    And of course the never ending influx of refugees with such an opposite culture will have its effect, as it now is in some European countries that are now rebelling against the Merkle plan to dilute nation state identities.

  8. Remain would almost certainly win another referendum. Some of the people who favour remain but did not bother to vote would turn out, they by themselves don`t deserve a second referendum but they would not be the only change. The demographics of the Brexit and Remain voters in 2016 is such that enough Brexit voters have died and enough remain Remain voters have either turned 18 and/or become British Citizens (impending Brexit has, unsurprisingly, dramatically increased the uptake of British Citizenship by eligible EU Citizens in the UK) to turn the vote in Remain`s favour. The chaotic nature of the Brexit process is also likely to harm the Leave vote.

    If fear about Brexit was low, there would not be much of a continuing Remain or People`s Vote campaign.

    Refugees are an external migration issue, a matter still largely controlled by member-states. The EU does have a system for spreading refugees who arrive at the border around the EU, which is a fair concept because EU external borders (and especially those with large refugee flows) are unevenly distributed around the EU (mainly to Spain, Italy, Malta and Greece).

  9. It’s worth noting that a few days ago British Steel went into administration, due to its EU customers ceasing to order their products because of the ongoing Brexit chaos. 5000 jobs at risk directly, primarily at Scunthorpe and on Teeside, with a further 20000 jobs in the downside supply chain. Gives us a taste of what the economy of a UK outside of the EU is going to look like.

  10. @Tom the first and best

    I don’t know if a second referendum is going to be a cakewalk for the Remain side, even if a Hard or even No Deal Brexit is on the ballot. Considering that the quite new Brexit Party won more than 30% of the vote in the European Parliament Elections.

    Honestly I think a No Deal Brexit while inflicting a lot of suffering on the British population, is the best way to completely defeat the Brexiters. Because they will be subjected to the mother of backlashes.

  11. I expect any Brexit will defeat the Brexit party, because they no longer have anything to campaign for. Farage may try joining the Tories, but more likely will just disappear off to the RW nutter talk circuit.

    The UK does face a more existential question of what its trade policy is going to be, (how open will they be really? To what extent do they align with the US or the EU?) but the details will probably be too boring for most of its voters, and will split the rest.

  12. Northern Ireland;
    1 each for Sinn Fein; DUP and Alliance. Another good showing for the fence sitters after a large swing in the council elections. maybe NI politics really are moving away from sectarianism

    Dismal day in the Republic for SF, Labour and Fianna Fail but at least one green is elected

  13. Looking at the preference distribution in NI
    Alliance was elected with the elimination of SDLP approximately 67% of SDLP 2nd preferences went to Alliance and 33% to SF. Interesting

  14. LoL
    In the EU the UK people’s main concern will be which unelected person in Brussels is now legislating the laws and budgets.

    The UK and the lot of them cease to be a country through the evolving regulations of the EU.
    I see that you outed yourself as just the average hater when you refer to Farrage as RWNJ, thus invalidating your opinion.
    Brexit will inevitably be successful simply because the whole EU concept is clearly rotting from within.
    Me thinks they went one step too far and frightened the horses.
    Flooding Europe with refugees from the Middle East, a people with a culture and religious uderstanding totally at odds with the culture of Europeans was always going to be a disaster.
    Look at Sweden now, changed into a total dangerous rubbish dump. Don’t believe me, go pay a visit. You wont return.

  15. Hello Salk. I recently spent 9 days in Sweden-half in Stockholm and half traveling from town to town across the south of the country-Kalmar, Vaxjo, Karlskrona, Malmo and other smaller places. It’s a prosperous and beautiful country, full of lakes and forests and islands, with very high living standards, wonderful history and friendly people. I’d love to go back and spend more time there. Just what was your travel itinerary when you visited?

  16. It has always been an entirely schizophrenic line of argument to simultaneously complain about the EU supposedly subsuming the individual nation-states of Europe and also about the ‘unelected politicians in Brussels’.

    This is because the European Council – not directly elected, but composed of the heads of all the member states – was specifically designed this way in order to continue the primacy of the nation-states.

  17. caf

    It’s also ironic that the English brexiteers complain about “undemocratic” Europe and they have a political system with an unelected Head of State, an unelected House of Parliament and the only elected House is in single member electorates with “first-past-the-post”. It is not uncommon to have a majority in the Commons on less than 40% of the vote.

    In other words a Government elected despite ⅔ of the electors not voting for them!

  18. The arrogant confidence shown by Remain supporters in this thread is the same arrogance shown before the Referendum and all those other democratic processes that have given the Leftist multiple metaphorical bloodied noses over the last few years.

    The Conservatives (and possibly but highly unlikely UK Labour) should take from this result that they need to make BREXIT happen or face electoral oblivion next election. A second referendum is not an option.

  19. Bucephalus – I think I agree with you. It seems that the same forces are at work in the UK trying to push Labour to campaign for “Remain” as over here with people drawing the conclusion from the recent Federal election that Labor should pursue a more “progressive” agenda and appeal to the inner city types.

    There seems to be immense pressure on the left-of-centre parties around the world to abandon their working class roots in favor of chasing the socially progressive, globalist, voters, who generally speaking have a neo-liberal view of the economic sphere (ie high mobility of goods, people and capital).

    The last decade or so has shown what happens to centre-left parties around the world who abandon their working class base. Basically – they get annihilated. The Democrats in the US are another good example. What voting block was responsible for Trump getting elected? The rust belt states that voted for Obama 4 years earlier. Trump campaigned on an anti neo liberal agenda (ie restrict immigration and trade protectionism, anti NAFTA and imperial wars) and won. The democrats, having pursued the neo-liberal agenda, and were clearly linked with that agenda in the voters minds, had nowhere to go. They also show no signs of learning the lessons of defeat either.

    I really hope Labor avoid this trap. Not sure how long Labour will hold out in the UK (but I reckon Corbyn gets it). They cannot afford to be seen as the party of the “elites” which is what they will become if they cave in to these demands.

  20. UK Labour has no choice but to get off the fence and go all out for a second referendum and to campaign to remain. With the Tories almost certainly about to swing behind a hard Brexit, Labour needs to position itself in a way where it does not own the consequences when it all hits the fan. Soft Brexit is almost certainly now off the table, but even if that could’ve been agreed on, the hard Brexiters would have continued their push and blamed soft Brexiters for anything and everything that went wrong.

    The NI results are certainly interesting, but I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to longer term conclusions. Alliance are strongly pro remain and have probably drawn some extra support in that context. I think it is worth noting that unionists who are pro remain did not really have a voice in these elections, so some may have thrown their support behind Alliance. The numbers between Sinn Fein and the Dup were closer than I had expected and Dodds was actually first elected, the first time a unionist has been first elected since 2004.

  21. Matt31,

    UK Labour will be completely smashed outside of London if they take your advice. Many UK Labour heartland seats are also strong Leave voters. That is why Corbyn, a long time anti-EU Leaver has played it so equivocally to date. I suspect he will continue to do so as he is trying to wedge the Conservatives.

  22. UK Labour will be smashed outside of London and other pro-Remain cities if they go full pro-Remain and they will be smashed IN London and pro-Remain cities if they continue to plump for Brexit. The bind works both ways.

    The “second referendum” plan is meant to walk that line of being acceptable to Remain Labor supporters while trying to not completely alienate pro-Leave Labour supporters (ESPECIALLY pro-Leave supporters who do not want a no deal Brexit). Whether that will work I don’t know.

    Personally it’s been clear for a while that there are only two ways out of this situation for the UK: a no deal Brexit, or a referendum that gives the people the option of choosing between no deal, the May deal, and Remain (preferably on a preferential voting basis, as FPTP would split the Brexit vote between two options and that isn’t fair) and then that result is honoured 100%, no ifs, buts or coconuts, by both major parties.

    We know there’s a majority in the Commons against no deal. It’s the only thing for which they is a majority. Ergo, either Tories against a no deal eventually go for the second referendum or they fold and accept no deal, but there is no other option unless the hard Brexiteers fold and go for the May deal after all (which seems a mile less likely than either of the other options).

    All that has been happening for months is an attempt by May and others to deny this obvious state of play.

  23. Arky,

    Given the first Referendum result is being ignored, exactly why would a second referendum result not be ignored?

    If the Conservatives and the DUP can’t sort there sh!t out to arrange a Brexit without then they deserve electoral annihilation.

    The current WA isn’t in the spirit of the BREXIT Referendum as it keeps the UK in the EU strictures. Therefore the next Conservative Leader has to go to the EU and say either you give us a deal that is a proper or BREXIT or it’s a No Deal. If the EU really want to cut off their nose (Ireland, France, Benelux) to spite their face then that’s their problem. The UK will soldier on through a No deal if they have to. The UK has the opportunity to become the Singapore of Europe – low tax, free trade with the rest of the world, major financial hub.

  24. Matt 31
    I take your point on Remain Unionists – they really had no where to go except Alliance.

    While the DUP was elected first this was largely due to the early exit of the UUP and raises the question of the spiralling decline of the Ulster Unionists being terminal. They were out polled by Traditional Unionist Voice – so much for moderate unionism!

  25. BTW the SF MEP got life for her role in the Brighton Hotel bombing and was released by the Good Friday Agreement after 13 years. SF is supposed to be projecting a post-conflict phase but this candidate selection is not all that concilatory

  26. Why on Earth would the EU renegotiate a Brexit deal? All that would do is give momentum to leave movements in other EU countries, the last thing they’re going to do. If the UK is going to insist on this madness it is either going to be through May’s deal or no deal. There is still hope for sanity to prevail!

    Bucephalus’s post above exposes the con job that Brexiters are playing on ordinary UK citizens; I’m quite sure millions who voted to leave are not exactly lining up to sign up for the low tax low spend eutopia mentioned above, but that is exactly where the people who are actually behind the Brexit push want to take the UK. Goodbye NHS for starts if that happens!

  27. “There seems to be immense pressure on the left-of-centre parties around the world to abandon their working class roots in favor of chasing the socially progressive, globalist, voters, who generally speaking have a neo-liberal view of the economic sphere (ie high mobility of goods, people and capital).” …… Oh dear, so much misunderstanding and so many stereotypes.

    The centre-left Social Democratic parties around the world have not abandoned their working class roots at all (especially the Australian Labor party), just as the Greens parties are not relying on the vote of a population of “CDB-dwelling latte sipping kumbaya-singing” voters. Social Democracy has the duty to attract the majority of voters and that majority starts from the centrist middle class, then extending all the way to the precariat, sub-employed, unemployed, chronic poor, etc. In Australia the ALP started departing from the old Neoliberal consensus in 2008, with their Keynesian response to the GFC put together by Rudd-Swan. They haven’t stopped since then and, in fact, the program offered by Shorten at this election was the most Social Democratic program offered by the ALP since Whitlam.

    High mobility of goods and people have nothing to do with Neoliberalism at all. High mobility of goods and people is an unavoidable outcome of economic/technological development and access to speedy means of transport. People have exported and imported goods and moved around since antiquity, what has changed now is the speed of the process due to better technology. This dynamic can be hijacked by Neoliberalism, in which case it’s conducive to high inequality, poverty, wars, exploitation, environmental degradation (all of which can also occur in a protectionist or even autarchic regime, btw, as it was the case during Fascism in the 1930s). But the same dynamic can also occur within a Social Democratic political and legal system, which leads to better redistribution of wealth, relative social equality and justice, more balanced progress (this happened during the period between the end of WWII and the early 1970s, before Neoliberalism took over the world).

    The basics of capitalism are going nowhere. The alternative Marxist system is dead and it’s not going to come back any time soon. But capitalism can be used to produce the goodies that we can all enjoy: economic progress, social justice and environmental sustainability, provided that it’s regulated, it follows Social Democratic principles such as those espoused by Keynes, Government is democratically elected and it has an active role in making sure that the people benefit from any competitive drive seen in the private sector (e.g. through appropriate taxation, anti-monopoly laws, etc.). Moreover, Government in a Social Democracy has the obligation of providing services that are accessible and benefit everybody, and it may even own some productive or strategic industries that are taken away from the competitive market in order to benefit the people, the rest remains open to the private sector.

    All that was taken by the Australian Labor Party at the last election, with the Greens agreeing on pretty much everything but with a plan to fast-track the policies towards even more ambitious goals.

    But some in the working class didn’t vote for this plan. Why? Because some in the working class, who are unhappy with their situation, can be easily manipulated by vested interests using the media: Divert the attention to scapegoats such as the migrants, believe the tale of the media about the “danger of electing the Labor party”, spur brainless emotions using chauvinism/nationalism, recruit religious groups to mount grassroots scare campaigns to defend the “true fait” against the coming atheism/Islam, etc.

    The USA and the EU are going through a period of transition right now that started with Neoliberalism falling apart during the GFC. This period is characterised by chaos, nonsense and populism. But the recent EU elections show that the right is not going to take over anything any time soon. The election will hopefully accelerate change towards a triple bottomline form of Social Democracy. The USA will have their chance at their presidential election… We in Australia had our chance and missed it, so we can only keep working hard and wait for the next Federal election.

  28. Alpo, quite a bit of your post I would disagree with, particularly the simplistic binary of capitalism v communism and also the idea that free movement of people and goods is universal and has nothing to do with neo-liberalism. I would go as far to state that all industrial societies developed their industrial base with a controlled economy eg tariffs and state subsidies. Also the idea of workers being able to move to wherever they can find work has some pretty basic (and obvious if you are willing to look) economic problems particularly for those at the lower, less-educated end of the job market.

    The neo-liberal global order is actually quite a new and radical situation. To some extent, class – with respect to the globalised economy, is now more important than nationality. Which I think is what you are seeing in the backlash embodied by Brexit (and Trump derangement syndrome) where movements are bringing that nationality as the primary identifier back.

    I do agree with you that the ALP did appear to me to be looking at the “working class” and what may be in their interests more so than other left-of-centre parties around the world. I was also hopeful of the institutional roots of the ALP in the Union movement keeping it in touch with middle Australia. The result did surprise me. Although I put it down to that demographic not engaging with the ALP message and not even listening to it, rather than rejecting it on principle. I agree that it was a very simplistic scare campaign that resonated in that demographic which tells me that the ALP needs a whole lot more trust from that demographic to counter such campaigns.

  29. Final results in Poland and Italy have been better for the right than the projections last night. As a result, the left parties plus the Liberals plus the Romanian Soc Dems now add to 375, not 381, so not quite enough.

    https://europeelects.eu/ep2019/

    Also some Liberal parties are pretty right wing on economic policy, such as the Spanish Citizens and German Free Democrats, so not a lot of common ground with the left. I think Macron’s En Marche and the UK Lib Dems are more left-leaning.

    So it’s likely to be a centre-right, centre-left and Liberal coalition.

    Caf above asked what the problem with the Romanian Soc Dems is. They’re allegedly corrupt and authoritarian, and their president has just been jailed for 3.5 years.

    https://www.rferl.org/a/romanian-ruling-party-s-leader-begins-prison-sentence-for-corruption/29964885.html

  30. Alpo,

    Voters don’t give a toss for the pseudoacademic analysis.

    In the UK Brexit voters voted Brexit because that’s what they voted for and that’s what they want. Remainers Voted Lib Dem and the Chukka Party got nothing.

  31. https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/a-boris-johnson-for-prime-minister-campaign-has-been

    A Boris Johnson For Prime Minister Campaign Has Been Registered To The Owner Of A Westminster News Blog
    The Boris2020.org website — which sends emails to MPs to support Johnson’s campaign for the Tory leadership — is registered to the owner of the Guido Fawkes blog.
    Posted on May 28, 2019, at 7:04 p.m.
    Alex Spence BuzzFeed News Reporter
    Mark Di Stefano BuzzFeed News Reporter

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-05-27/the-european-elections-show-macron-s-biggest-problem-isn-t-le-pen

    Polarization Wins in Macron’s France

    Emmanuel Macron’s movement is safe for now, but the European Parliament elections show challengers waiting in the wings.
    By Lionel Laurent
    27 May 2019, 14:00 GMT+10

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5fmzaCPu3g
    The Political Groups in the European Parliament – European election 2019 | Europe Elects
    Published on 4 Apr 2019

  32. Adrian’s analysis is interesting. If, as he suggests, the Tories will choose a “hard Brexit” leader, then the chances of a no deal Brexit are much higher. This is a major risk.

    To stop that, some of those within the Tory party will have to cross the floor or abstain – in defiance of their newly elected leader. We might see more people joining Change UK, or perhaps even a more visceral split of the Tory party.

  33. swamprat

    Your use of the term “will” is overly optimistic. They had their chance and lost. It is highly unlikely there will be another independence referendum any time soon.

    The article is flawed because the EU has clearly stated that it won’t accept Scotland because if they do that then every other independence movement in the EU will kick off.

  34. There is a major difference between Scotland and other separatist movements in the EU, the other member-states are not trying to leave the EU and have little prospect of doing so. A Scottish return to the EU would represent a major defeat for Brexit and therefore anti-EU movements across the EU and would also reduce Ireland`s isolation for a Brexited EU. Other member-states facing separatist movements will retain EU membership, allowing them to veto any breakaway`s entry.

  35. So Labour will get “smashed” if they throw their support behind remain? Hmmm well, the latest poll has the Liberal Democrats, a pro remain party who were dead in the water not so long ago, in the lead on 24 percent. The Conservatives and Labour are in equal 3rd on 19 percent. Labour must get off the fence and support remain, and if Corbyn, a long time leave supporter, will not allow this course of action, then he is a problem that Labour must rid itself of. I say this as someone who originally supported Corbyn, but with the vast majority of the Labour membership and a majority of Labour voters supporting staying in, this needs to be reflected by the party. I had hoped that after the European elections that Corbyn might finally budge on this, but all indications are that he won’t. He can scream for a General Election all he wants, but with things as they are there’s about a zero chance of anyone getting close to a majority if one was to be held.

  36. Not sure how this could be possible:
    In Ireland South the count was stopped and the 18th and critical count when SF trailed the Green by about 200 votes (.04%)
    SF has called for a full recount and the electoral commission says this will take a month and cost 1M Euro. How does it cost so much to count 700K votes?

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