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Sat, 15 August 2020

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EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about the European Parliament elections

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about the European Parliament elections

Emilio Casalicchio

4 min read

It was the election nobody wanted. But voters are heading to the polls today to elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). How long might they have to stay there? Who knows. But here is everything you need to know.

Why are we even having this election?

Britain was supposed to leave the EU on 29 March but failed to strike a Brexit deal with the bloc. Instead of crashing out without a deal, Theresa May begged the other member states to give her more time to try to get her agreement through. They said she could have until 31 October, but that if the UK manages to sort itself out it could leave earlier.

But - surprise, surprise - the UK has not managed to sort itself out. The PM had originally hoped Britain would be able to swerve the elections, but with no end in sight to the deadlock in Westminster, MEPs will be sent to Brussels and will have to take their seats for at least a short while.


What is the result likely to be?

All signs suggest the new Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage will romp home at these elections. The last YouGov poll for the Times had the Brexit Party - which has a single policy to take the UK out of the EU without a deal - on a stonking 37%. The Lib Dems were in second place with 19%, with Labour on 13% and the Tories on 7% - behind the Green Party.

The numbers appear to confirm the narrative of the whole campaign: that the election is an effective second referendum on EU membership, with the hard Brexit or anti-Brexit parties coming out on top. The country is set to give the two main parties a royal kicking for getting the UK into such a quandry.

The last European Parliament vote was held in 2014, when Ukip stormed it. So it looks like another good night for Farage.


How the election works

Some 73 MEPs will be elected to sit in the European Parliament across 12 regions of the UK. Polls will open at 7am on 23 May and will close at 10pm the same day.

The voting system to elect multiple MEPs in each region is somewhat complicated. Voters just vote for a party - not individual candidates. Each party has a list of its candidates, with those at the top the first in line for election. The party that wins the most votes in each region gets the first seat, which will go to the person at the top of their list.

Then the total vote count for that party is divided by two, and the party with the most votes after that division gets the second seat. If a party gets two seats its vote is then divided by three for the following round, and if it wins a third seat its vote will then be divided by four and so on. The process is repeated until all the seats are taken.


When will we know the results?

Almost all of the UK results will be declared between 10pm on Sunday 26 May and 2.30pm on Monday 27 May. It comes a long time after the vote because some EU nations go to the polls on later days, and the results do not come out until voting has closed in all countries.

There is no exit poll like in a general election, but the first national estimates should begin doing the rounds in the early evening on the Sunday.


Key regions to watch out for

London, where Ukip leader Gerard Batten will be fighting to keep his seat; the North West, where far right activist Tommy Robinson is standing; the South East, where Nigel Farage is standing and where the Conservatives have their safest seat, currently held by Daniel Hannan; the South West, where ex-Tory grandee Ann Widdecombe is standing for the Brexit Party, rape row activist Carl Benjamin is standing for Ukip and anti-Brexit peer Lord Adonis is standing for Labour; Yorkshire and the Humber, where Labour EU leader Richard Corbett is hoping to keep his seat.


Brexit Foreign affairs