Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

EU watches as angry UK kicks off EU elections

  • Anger over the parliamentary expenses scandal in Westminister is set to be reflected in the EU vote (Photo: wikipedia)

The rest of Europe has been watching agog at the buildup of an almost insurrectionary feeling in the UK following revelations of MPs' abuses of the expenses system. The outpouring of anger could have significant implications for EU politics, as Britons unleash their fury via the ballot box and opposition parties call for an early general election.

The UK, along with the Netherlands, will kick off voting in the European elections and local elections on Thursday (4 June), with the governing Labour party facing the prospect of its worst electoral defeat in history.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The beleaguered Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, charged with reacting too slowly and then inadequately to the unfolding scandal, has been buffeted further in recent days by announcements that four members of his government, including two ministers, are leaving.

The weakened government has emboldened the opposition Conservatives, who feel 10 Downing Street is within their grasp sooner rather than later.

Conservative leader David Cameron on Wednesday in a rowdy parliamentary question time renewed his call for an early general election, saying the "government was collapsing before our eyes."

"Get down to the palace. Ask for a dissolution, call an election," he told Mr Brown.

Dissolution debate next Wednesday

The momentum for the early vote is gathering pace, with leaders of the small nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party, saying they will table a motion for a dissolution of parliament next Wednesday. The Liberals, the UK's third largest party, have backed the proposed move.

The motion will be the first time MPs will formally express an opinion on whether there should be an early vote.

Support for the move is likely to be further strengthened if Labour receives the drumming in the polls on Thursday that has been widely predicted.

Meanwhile, a quick early general election, which would most likely return the Conservatives to power after twelve years in opposition, could radically alter the prospects of the EU treaty coming into place.

If he wins the keys to Downing Street, Mr Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it has not yet been ratified by the rest of the EU. As a testing ground ahead of Thursday elections, he has already tabled a bill to say the referendum would be held on the same day as Ireland holds its second referendum on the document, expected in October.

As one of the most eurosceptic nations in the EU and seen as being against the further integration that the Lisbon Treaty would entail, it is likely that the UK would reject it.

Such a move would sound the death knell for the treaty and would plunge the EU into renewed talk of a two-speed Europe.

The other winners

As Britons head to the polls, all eyes will be on the expected smaller winners of the frenzy of discontent that has gripped the county for the past weeks.

The UK Independence Party, advocating withdrawal from the EU, says it aims to double its MEPs from the current nine.

Opinion polls give the party between 10 and 20 percent of the vote, while the far-right British National Party may get its first seat in Brussels.

A good showing by Mr Cameron's Conservatives - who want to set up their own eurosceptic group in the European Parliament along with Czech, Polish, Latvian and Bulgarian parties - as well as by Ukip would give more clout to eurosceptics than they currently have in the EU assembly.

The UK Greens are also expected to profit from voters disgust with mainstream parties and to achieve their best ever EU result on Thursday.

Politicians in Europe have been urging voters across the EU not to register their discontent with governing parties by voting for extreme right or extreme left parties, with EU votes often perceived as a useful no-consequences stick with which to beat incumbent governments.

"It is up to individuals how to vote, but I am asking citizens ... to counter extremism and at least vote for a stronger Europe. Those that believe in common values and are pro-European need to mobilise themselves," outgoing European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering told Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, the latest opinion survey commissioned by the EU assembly shows the downward voter turnout trend of every previous EU election may be bucked this week. It reached a low of 45.3 percent in 2004 but the parliament poll suggests it may rise to 49 percent this time round.

UK leader under increasing pressure to go

Pressure on UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to resign is growing, after another minister quit his government on Thursday and with his Labour party expected to show a disastrous result in Thursday's EU and local elections.

EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law

The European Parliament backed a law on copyrighted content online. Defenders says it will safeguard right holders from being exploited by big tech firms. Critics say it spells the end of internet freedoms and curtails expression.

Opinion

Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?

Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, the bloc is ideologically split between authoritarians seeking to reduce its sway, and those seeking a moderate track. In essence, voters have to decide if they want to move forwards or backwards.

Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem

Romania will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its prime minister has said, shattering the EU line on the Arab-Israeli conflict while the country holds the EU rotating presidency.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us