The results of the European Elections are in and the Brexit Party, headed by Nigel Farage, has won a significant victory by gaining the largest share of the vote and the most seats in the UK. This victory came at the expense of the Conservative Party, who lost several seats in their worst defeat ever – coming in at fifth place. Some smaller parties gained a lot of votes in the hopes of securing a second referendum. So what do these results mean for the UK and the EU? Here are some key takeaways we learned from the results.
The Next British Prime Minister is Likely to be a Brexiteer
The results of the election show a major drop in support for the ruling Conservative Party. Theresa May’s decision to delay Brexit twice has led to a civil war in the party and a drop in support, as most Conservative voters are pro-Brexit voters. With May stepping down from office the race is on to replace her, and two of the most likely candidates – Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab – have declared their support for taking Britain out of the EU without having a deal in place.
The increase in support for Pro-Brexit parties is sure to lead to the Conservatives being more likely to elect someone like Johnson or Raab – someone willing to have a so-called “Hard Brexit.”
Hard Remain Parties got More Votes than Hard Brexit Parties
The European elections were seen as something of a proxy second EU referendum in the UK. The votes mostly went to the parties that were either for leaving (Brexit Party and UKIP), or staying (Lib Dems, Change UK, and the Greens). While it’s true the Brexit Party won the largest share of votes; the results are not a vindication of their stance to leave the UK
When looking solely at parties competing on the national party, the two hard Brexit parties won 35% of the vote collectively, while the three anti-Brexit parties also won 35%. Including the SNP and Plaid Cymru into the mix pushes things in favor of Remain.
The Brexit Situation is Only Going to Get Worse
If the elections were taken as a proxy EU referendum, then they show how deep the divide remains with no decisive majority for either Leave or Remain. The main problem with complex multiparty elections like this is that people can read into them however they want. Someone committed to Brexit could see the success of the Brexit Party as proof they are right, while Remainers could look to the higher collective share of votes for Remain parties as a victory for them.
The ambiguous nature of the results means that the polarization caused by Brexit is only going to carry on. While it seems likely that the new leader of the Conservative party – and therefore new Prime Minister – is going to be a hard Brexiteer, it also means that it’s more likely Parliament could vote to prevent a hard Brexit.
A 2nd Referendum Could be Coming
If the Conservatives were forced to choose between a general election or a second referendum, they would likely to choose a referendum. The new Prime Minister would also be under pressure to have one from a government that is determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Given that the Labour Party are expected to stay pro-Remain, this means that the chances of Brexit being stopped increase too.