In case you hadn’t heard, with a delay to the Brexit date having been granted until up to the end of October, citizens of the UK can now vote one last time for their representatives in the European Parliament. Turnout in European Parliamentary (EP) elections is notoriously low, with many people considering them second-order elections and opting not to vote, leading to a democratic deficit and the increased strength of more fringe parties when compared to national parliaments. Whatever your views are usually on EP elections, there’s no denying this will be the UK’s most important one yet. So, with all that said, here’s why you should make sure you’re registered to vote by 7 May, and that you hand in your ballot paper on 23 May.
1. Nigel Farage
Of course, there’s a bias here. But, this is an opinion piece website after all, and I’m no fan of Nigel Farage. If you are: don’t worry, I’ve provided plenty more reasons.
In the 2014 EP elections, UKIP attracted the most votes of all British parties, winning 24 seats to Labour’s 20, the Conservatives’ 19, and the Greens’ three. UKIP is the party that most represents the UK at the EU level, and Farage has been a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for 20 years.
Today, Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party is a strong player in the polls, likely to win a sizeable chunk of the UK’s 73 seats. The polls vary, but the party’s almost certain success combined with its clear message (as Emily Maitlis says, it does what it says on the tin) mean that the vote to leave is likely to receive a renewed mandate. It may be unclear who to vote for if you’re still against Brexit (or even if Brexit isn’t at the top of your agenda!), but there are plenty of options, and voting for any of them will dilute Farage’s support.
European Parliament voting intention:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) April 17, 2019
BREX: 23% (-4)
LAB: 22% (-)
CON: 17% (+2)
GRN: 10% (-)
LDEM: 9% (-)
CHUK: 8% (+2)
UKIP: 6% (-1)
via @YouGov, 16 – 17 Apr
Chgs. w/ 16 Apr
2. This will be treated like a referendum
The campaign for a second referendum, or a ‘People’s Vote’, has been gaining momentum for a long time, but we haven’t had one. My view is that it’s necessary to clarify the muddied mandate of the 2016 referendum; if Leave wins again, that’s fair enough, but we can no longer be certain what the public wants without putting these very changed circumstances to the people once more. Whatever your views are on a second referendum, though, if you have views on Brexit then I’m sure you’d want to vote in one if it were to happen. And since one hasn’t happened yet, this is how many will view the upcoming EP elections.
With a number of parties to choose from, these elections certainly won’t provide a clear mandate for anything, but they will send a message. With the 2017 General Election already being treated by some as a renewed mandate to leave — with leaving the EU being a manifesto promise of the two largest parties — the EP elections may well be treated in the same way. If there is enough support for parties other than the Brexit Party and the Conservatives, this may well send a message that minds might have changed.
This isn’t a second referendum, and the results won’t reveal anything in a clear-cut way. It’s in the Brexit Party’s interests for this to be treated like another referendum, as they’re the only single-issue Leave or Remain party running. But, with many people treating it as such, wouldn’t you rather have your say?
3. The European Parliament is increasingly powerful
Eurosceptics have legitimate concerns about the EU’s democratic deficit, but the European Parliament, the EU’s only entirely directly elected institution, is growing in power. (The European Council and the Council of the EU are also elected, but this is because they are intergovernmental, comprising of Member States’ own elected leaders — like Theresa May.) The 2009 Lisbon Treaty strengthened the European Parliament’s powers, making it a fully recognised co-legislator and increasing its budgetary powers, continuing a historical trend of its ever-increasing power.
With this in mind, your say in which EU legislation is passed is stronger than ever, whether you’re a fan of the EU or not. So, it’s definitely worthwhile making your vote.
4. Every vote counts. Literally.
In general elections, our broken first-past-the-post system means that in safe seats, it’s less likely your vote will change who your MP becomes. Tactical voting is commonplace as it’s often easier to vote out your least favourite candidate than to vote in your favourite.
In EP elections, however, European law means that every country can use whichever voting system it likes, so long as it’s a proportional one. In the UK, we use the D’Hondt method. This means that whichever party you vote for, it will make a difference.
Your vote will have a direct influence on which parties end up representing your region in the European Parliament, so you can vote for whichever party you like knowing you’ll increase their chances of winning seats.
The European Parliamentary elections will take place in the UK on 23 May. Register to vote by 7 May by clicking here if you’re not already registered, and if needed, you can apply for a postal vote here. Find out more information, including on your eligibility to vote, here.