European election choices: a sorry state of affairs

Credit: Marco Verch

The European elections are nearing, and the UK may be about to vote for Brexit once more.

This election was never meant to happen. However, the continued delay of the UK’s departure from the EU has tied the hands of the government.

Alongside election fatigue, candidates have another thing to worry about if they want to collect votes.

The sheer complexity of the political spectrum will further impact the number of people willing to vote.

While the European elections are not going to directly decide whether Brexit happens or not, they will end up electing people who will be able to push for it.

In most countries, you have your parties on the left/right scale, which is simple to vote on and easy to keep track of candidates because you can place them on the axis.

The UK is different.

We now have an axis for representing each:

  • The left and right
  • Brexit and no Brexit
  • An independent Scotland and a devolved Scotland
  • A united Ireland and a preserved union.

So while ten years ago, you were voting on simple terms, you now need to weigh up all these points for every politician.

This level of disarray is messy for both sides.

A sorry state of affairs Part 1

The Brexit party has one sole purpose: ripping the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

It is headed by Nigel Farage, who remains controversial for his right-wing views.

Ironically, the other main “Brexit” supporting party is UKIP, Farage’s former party.

Nigel Farage, Credit: Gage Skidmore

Farage has recently criticised UKIP for being “too extreme” after being seen to work more closely with far-right extremist Tommy Robinson.

Robinson, who announced plans to run as an MEP has already drawn attention to his nuanced approach to garner votes by being cautioned that giving out free food could be in breach of electoral laws. 

Despite this, he has built up a sizeable following of sympathisers.

The problem for people wanting to vote for the fast-track out of the EU is that they have to either vote UKIP or the Brexit party, both of which may feel too right wing for many.

The situation is not much better for the Conservative party voters.

The Brexit referendum was called by the Conservatives and meant to be delivered by them for the 29th March.

They have continually failed to pass a deal for leaving the EU and both Remain and Leave voters are very frustrated with the outcome.

They have not indicated much focus on the European election, with many party members wanting to be out before the time.

The Conservative MPs are some of the most divided in the UK at the moment representing all spectrums of the Brexit debate.

Many backbenchers are causing trouble for Theresa May, which is part of the reason she is leading such a weak government.

The party’s chief executive has to use his own money to fund some activities because the party has lost a significant chunk of funding from donor apathy.

Of course, this is just one side of the story.

A sorry state of affairs part 2

On the remain side, there are just as many problems.

Perhaps the hottest topic is the new independent party, Change UK.

Change UK was formed out of defectors from Labour in February and was joined by three Conservative MPs shortly after.

This centrist group is calling for a second referendum on membership of the EU.

Their inception has caused ripples across the whole of UK politics, weakening the public image of Labour and the Conservatives.

While they have a strong backing from the public (as well as a high demand from 3,700 wanting to run as candidates), they are in dangerous territory of splitting the vote on the remain side if they don’t convince enough people to vote for them.

There are significantly more pro-remain parties than Brexit ones, including local parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru (Wales), and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland.

This could be a cause for concern for remainers since the ballot box is a proportional representation system which allows one selection for a party.

The recent environmental protests by Extinction Rebellion will likely play a role in voter decision making.

The Green party may well see a rise, especially in youth votes, which could mark a significant upside for the UK’s environmental policies.

In Scotland, the rising demand for independence is likely going to complicate matters.

Instead of voting on a Brexit/Remain basis, independence is a vital issue to think about.

The tight entanglement of Brexit and Scottish independence is complex and will likely see pro-independence voters flocking to the SNP, while people on the fence for either topic will probably vote for one of the UK-wide parties.

The Liberal Democrats are hoping to recover after a challenging decade and may offer a more familiar name on the ballot sheet for the Conservative and Labour voters who are abandoning ship.

Over in Northern Ireland, the situation is worse.

The Northern Irish backstop is a matter of more than public preference.

It is the thin sheet of clingfilm acting as a protective barrier from violence breaking out in the area between the unionist and republican groups.

There is currently not a secure deal or option in place for a stable Northern Irish border if the UK leaves the EU, and so the results from Northern Ireland will be particularly interesting to see.

The bottom line

The UK is in a 4-dimensional deadlock right now. While the parliament cannot agree on the best course of action for Brexit, the EU elections might stir up enough change to kickstart motion again.

These results will show the public consensus on Brexit better than any referendum will because people are now much closer to understanding what Brexit means.

If there is still a deadlock, there are only two solutions that I can think of:

  1. A binding second referendum with a mandatory date of departure if Brexit is voted.
  2. A successful Scottish independence bid which will reshuffle the entirety of UK politics.