Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party stormed to victory in the EU elections with 31.6% of the vote, final results showed Monday, giving it 29 seats in the European Parliament.
The country’s two main parties hemorrhaged support with May’s Conservativesfinishing on 9.1% — their worst result in a national vote in nearly 200 years — and the opposition Labour Party reaching 14.1%. Smaller pro-EU parties did well: the Liberal Democrats fetching second place with 20.3%.
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU, it remains a member and its politicians are still arguing over how, when or even whether the country will leave the club it joined in 1973.
May quit on Friday, saying it was a matter of deep regret that she had been unable to deliver Brexit and arguing that the decision of the 2016 referendum should be honoured. That opened up a period of further uncertainty as the Conservatives decide on who will take over as party leader and prime minister.
While May was forced to delay Brexit after agreeing a deal that the British parliament and much of her party rejected, the Labour Party has voiced both support for another referendum and a promise to honour the result of the 2016 vote.
The impact of such a severe election drubbing for the major parties is unclear though potential successors to May are calling for a more decisive Brexit, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under pressure to openly support another referendum.
Britain took part in the European Parliament elections because it had delayed the date of its exit from the EU, but its MEPs will leave the parliament when Brexit happens.
In total, Britain will elect 73 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) to the 751-seat parliament. They will not contribute directly to British policymaking on domestic issues like Brexit, but will have a say in EU-wide policy.
Farage casts Britain’s political system as broken and says parliament and the government are trying to thwart Brexit. He wants the United Kingdom to leave the EU as soon as possible and says the damage of a no-deal departure has been blown out of proportion.
Farage, who as UKIP leader persuaded May’s predecessor, David Cameron, to call the Brexit referendum and then helped lead the campaign to leave the EU, has said that failure to implement Brexit would show Britain not to be a democracy.
While the United Kingdom remains deeply divided over Brexit, most agree that it will shape the future of the United Kingdom for generations to come.
Pro-Europeans fear Brexit will undermine London’s position as one of the world’s top two financial capitals and weaken the West as it grapples with Donald Trump’s unpredictable U.S. presidency and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
The Liberal Democrats, who campaigned under the slogan “Bollocks to Brexit”, oppose Brexit and want a second referendum to stop it.
The loss of Britain for the EU is the biggest blow yet to more than 60 years of efforts to forge European unity after two world wars, though the 27 other members of the bloc have shown surprising unity during the tortuous negotiations.
In the 2014 EU Parliament election, what was then Farage’s UK Independence Party won with 26.8%, followed by Labour on 24.7% and the Conservatives on 23.3%. The Greens won 7.7% in 2014 and the Liberal Democrats 6.7%. Turnout was 35.6%.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)
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