30 May

ABCC Brexit Update – 30 May - EU Parliament Election Results – Heavy Losses for Conservatives and Labour – Tory Leadership Contest Heats Up

  • Despite the ongoing Brexit process, the UK took part in the European Parliament elections on 23 May. 
  • With former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage as leader, the newly formed Brexit Party came first, taking 31.6% of the national vote.  
  • Viewed as the “Remain Party” by many, the Liberal Democrats came second in a record performance for the pro-EU party.  The newly established pro-EU party, Change UK, failed to win a seat.
  • Both the Conservative and Labour parties suffered heavy losses, with the ruling Conservatives suffering their worst electoral defeat since 1832.  
  • The Green Party and Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) performed well in the vote, both increasing their share of seats.The SNP’s strong performance renewed calls from its leadership for a second vote on Scottish independence.
  • A final breakdown of the allocation of the UK’s 73 seats in the European Parliament is below. Note that in European elections, results are proportional and split into UK regions:
    • Brexit Party (29)
    • Liberal Democrats (16)
    • Labour (10)
    • Green Party (7)
    • Conservatives (4)
    • Scottish National Party (3)
    • Plaid Cymru (1)
    • Sinn Fein (1)
    • Democratic Unionist Party (1)
    • Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (1)
  • A full listing of the UK’s election results, including results by region, can be found on the BBC News website.
  • As pundits analyse and debate the meaning and consequences of the vote, the result clearly shows that the parties with clear positions on Brexit – either to leave or to stay - were rewarded.  The results however also show that the country remains divided on Brexit.
  • Swathes of traditional Conservative voters backed the Brexit Party in what is seen as a vote to punish the Government for its failure to deliver Brexit by its original deadline of 29 March.
  • Commentators claim that Labour’s attempt to keep both its pro-Remain and pro-Leave factions on board resulted in its poor performance. Pressure from pro-Remain Labour MPs continues to build on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum whilst MPs with constituencies who voted to leave the EU in 2016 largely oppose such a move.
  • Speaking after the results were revealed, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned that if Brexit is not delivered on 31 October, the two main parties will face further losses at the ballot box.  
  • Farage claimed his party is ready to fight a UK General Election and called for his party to take a role in Brexit negotiations – something already discounted by the ruling Conservative Party.
  • The vote followed Theresa May’s announcement on 22 May that she would step down as leader of the Conservative Party on 7 June, paving the way for a leadership contest and new Prime Minister in the coming months.
  • Elsewhere in Europe, results were mixed. Commentators note that despite nationalist parties performing worse than expected, traditional centrist parties failed to deliver.  For the first time since its establishment in 1979, the two main centre parties failed to gain a majority of the seats in the European Parliament.
  • May travelled to Brussels on 28 May for an informal summit with other EU leaders. Speaking in Brussels, May said that it was “matter of deep regret” that she was not able to deliver Brexit, adding “that the matter is now for my successor”.
  • Discussions between EU leaders were held on the future leadership of the EU’s executive, the European Commission.  With France and Germany reportedly split on the subject, the new European Commission is due to take force on 1 November, the day after the UK is now scheduled to leave the bloc.
  • Meanwhile, in the UK, focus now largely centres on the future leadership of the Conservative Party and whether or not the prospective candidates will countenance a ‘no deal Brexit’ should a future UK Government be unable to strike a deal with the EU. 
  • The declared candidates to replace Mrs May currently are:
    • Former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, James Cleverly   
    • Environment Secretary Michael Gove
    • Health Secretary Matt Hancock
    • Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
    • Home Secretary Sajid Javid
    • Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
    • Former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom
    • Housing Minister Kit Malthouse
    • Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey
    • Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab
    • International Development Secretary Rory Stewart
  • Contenders must put their names forward by the week commencing 10 June. Rounds of votes amongst Conservative MPs will then take place until there are two candidates left.
  • Conservative Party members will then vote between these two MPs to choose a leader of their party and next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • The BBC will hold two televised debates: one hustings debate with all declared candidates and a final debate with the remaining two contenders.

The ABCC and Brexit
The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely. We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community.  Earlier ABCC Brexit updates can be found on the ABCC Blog.
If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on abcc@britishchamber.com.
By Paul O’Hagan
Paul O’Hagan is the ABCC’s General Manager in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Prior to joining the ABCC, Paul was Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the U.S. Government in London, covering Brexit.

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