The 2019 European Elections and why they matter

Via The European Parliament

This may be the last chance we all have to make our voices heard on Brexit. Regardless of who, or what you support, these upcoming elections will undoubtably play a massive role in shaping the political discourse of a crucial next couple of months for Britain. So, who we, as the electorate, send to Brussels, Luxembourg City and Strasbourg really does matter and this article will take you through why.

These elections were never supposed to go ahead. The United Kingdom was supposed to have left the European Union on the 29th of March, 2019, and our seats in the European Parliament were supposed to have been vacated, our voice gone. However, by hook or by crook, we are currently still a member of the European Union, and we will be until at least the 31st of October, 2019.

Truthfully, there is much more at stake on the ballot paper than whether we should leave the European Union or remain a member. Indeed, the job ‘Member of Parliament for the European Union’ is not one to be taken lightly. MEPs have the power to approve, amend or reject nearly all EU legislation. They are your representatives in the European Union and they work in much the same way as our own MPs do, just on a larger scale.

In reality though, these elections will be treated by the politicians and pundits in and around Westminster as a form of a second referendum on Brexit itself. The results no doubt will either display the eagerness of the electorate to “Get on with Brexit!” Or they will be further evidence of a divided and fractured nation.

But, there is hope. The European Parliament uses a voting system called the D’Hondt method. Unlike our first past the post system, D’Hondt is a form of proportional representation, meaning parties receive roughly the same amount of seats as they do votes. So, instead of simply electing one MP per constituency, each of the 12 electoral regions in the United Kingdom will elect between three and 10 MEPs, depending on their relative sizes. Not only does this mean that your vote is far more likely to make a difference, it also reduces the need for tactical voting, as multiple parties can have MEPs elected from just one region.

2014 UK European Parliament election results via European Parliament

Unfortunately, last time around the British public never seemed to get this message. Indeed, turnout in 2014 was only 35.6%, in an election that saw the United Kingdom Independence Party top the polls. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is expected to achieve a similar result this time around, however, a larger than expected voter turnout will undoubtedly stick a spanner in the works.

As usual with Brexit this may hinge on the younger generation. Now its not exactly news that younger voters are more likely to choose more pro-European parties. Similarly, it will come as no surprise to hear that younger votes are less likely to vote at all and historically this has always played nicely into the hands of more conservative parties, as older, more euro-skeptic voters have successfully turned out in large numbers. But, if young voters do turn out in unprecedented numbers then I can guarantee the final results will look nothing like current polls.

For some context here, in 2014 UKIP won the popular vote, with 26.77% of all ballots cast. In numbers that equates to four million votes. Just four million votes was enough to win the European Elections in the UK in 2014. For even more context, the petition to revoke Article 50 and remain a member of the European Union has gathered over six million signatures. If every single one of those signatures went towards one party then they would have easily topped the polls in 2014, and they may again, with turnout this time not expected to be much better.

To give you an idea of your options a full list of MEP candidates running for each area is available here but, in the most basic of terms, the Liberal Democrats, Change UK and the Green Party are the most pro-Remain parties, whilst The Brexit Party and UKIP are clearly the most pro-Brexit. It is also worth noting that the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are both in favour of a second referendum with the option to remain, while both the Conservatives and Labour are caught in some sort of unholy mess between a myriad of different Brexit versions.

Needless to say every one of those versions are tedious, complicated and no one can agree on any of them. Of course Brexit is tedious, complicated and boring at the best of times and nothing I can say will change that. In all honesty I have no idea what will happen in the next few months. I do not know if our MEPs will take their seats for only a few weeks or if they will for many years to come. However, all I ask for is one more vote. One more vote from every single person on the electoral register. Because if these elections are going to be treated as a second referendum either way then we may as well make sure that the “will of the people,” as is so often referenced, is heard loud and clear.

We may as well make sure that we show everyone who has decried the European Union as being “undemocratic,” that it is the exact opposite. These elections offer what may be the very last chance we have to make our voices heard on the European continent, and to have our views represented and defended in front of 27 other member states, so can we please at the very least elect representatives that will take their job seriously.

Truly, this is democracy in action. So, if you care even one iota about Britain’s future relationship with the European Union, or if you care at all about who we send to represent ourselves and to stand up for our interests then please, make sure you get out and vote on the 23rd of May. In fact, no, thats not enough. On the 23rd of May, 2019, make sure that you also tell every single friend and family member you know to get out to the polls and vote. This may be our last chance to make our voices heard so please, don’t waste it.

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Matthew Hemmins

Second year History/Economics student with a passion for politics and plenty of opinions on a variety of topics!