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26th Aug 2019

Interview

EU election now a 'proxy referendum' on Brexit

  • The UK may end up contesting the European elections on 23 May after all - despite voting to leave the EU in 2016, and supposedly leaving on March 29 (Photo: European Parliament)

Molly Scott Cato, a Green MEP from the UK, is preparing to stay on as European parliament deputy for another five years.

"The European election campaign will become a proxy referendum, we will have vast enthusiasm for the EU," she told this website on Wednesday (10 April).

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But big questions remain.

EU heads of state and government on Wednesday night will set a new deadline for UK's departure from the European Union.

The initial 29 March cut-off date, already replaced by 12 April, will likely now extend far beyond what prime minister Theresa May had hoped for.

If it does, then the UK may go to the European polls on 23 May. Up for grabs are 73 spots in the 751-seat assembly.

Some current British MEPs and other future hopefuls are now gearing up for a snap European election campaign. Nigel Farage's new Brexit party is also recruiting candidates.

A poll released on Wednesday by the eurosceptic think tank, Open Europe, has outlined the voting intentions of the British public in the European elections.

It found 37.8 percent would vote Labour, 23 percent Conservative and only 10.3 percent Brexit party.

The projected Conservative hammering comes on the back of more than two years of Brexit talks, exposing deep rifts within the British government and within May's own cabinet.

"All that is left is angry people on one side, a lot of confused people in the middle and people like me that are desperately trying to save my country from the total disaster," says Scott Cato.

British MEPs

Questions remain, however, on whether British MEPs will be sidelined in the next legislature.

Claude Moraes, a senior British labour MEP, was earlier this month removed as rapporteur for a parliamentary legislative report on the Brexit visa waiver file.

Moraes blamed Spain, and its insistence to describe Gibraltar as a "colony of the British crown'.

But Cato dismisses the incident as an exception.

She noted many pro-EU MEPs tend to vote along party lines, leaving behind national interests, unlike the member states in the European Council.

"I am a Green, as well as a Brit, and usually I vote with the Green group rather than in the interests of Britain," she said.

She also pointed out that other MEPs from around Europe have been supportive, declaring that British MEPs retain full rights as members until the day they leave the union.

Her plan, if elected for another term, is to help strip the unanimity rule for member states on issues dealing with taxation.

The conservative UK government opposes tax harmonisation. But Brexit has cast a long shadow over May's leadership and her governing party.

"I am sure that a Labour government would look much more favourably on cooperative tax policy in Europe," warned Cato.

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