Following the massive vote in the House of Commons to ask for an extension of the Article 50 period, it is looking very likely that the European Parliament elections in late May will see the UK participate.
That could still not yet happen if a new Brexit deal is agreed (and, it’s worth remembering that “agreed” doesn’t just mean “agreed between the warring factions of the Conservative Party” but also “agreed between the UK and the rest of the EU”).
But it’s now looking very much more likely.
Which means the public will after all get a public vote on what to make of all this. A people’s vote, just not the People’s Vote.
As those European Parliament elections are by list PR (save for Northern Ireland which uses STV), they could be a pretty wild electoral ride:
- Will The Independent Group use them to launch themselves as a party? It’s a great opportunity but also one that comes rather sooner than they were planning to start fighting elections.
- How will the fall out in Ukip ranks, with a new Nigel Farage supported party (The Brexit Party) competing with Ukip, split the hard Brexit votes? Although it is list PR, it is still an election in which two parties splitting a vote pile can result in both falling short of the minimum required to win a seat.
- What manifesto will the Conservatives fight this contest on – what on earth can the party agree both amongst its own MPs in Westminster and with its MEPs?
- Likewise Labour: will Jeremy Corbyn really be able to keep his life-long record of backing right-wing Eurosceptics and Labour’s own heavily pro-Remain membership reconciled, just about, during an election which is heavily focused on Europe?
- And what about the Liberal Democrats: will this be the party’s chance to pull off the equivalent of a Parliamentary by-election victory – important in its own right but also a chance to grab a bigger slice of the national political picture?
A good thing that the Liberal Democrats have been quietly putting place arrangements for running a full set of candidates in the event of the European Parliament elections happening.
And beyond all that, the battle for a People’s Vote too continues. Look forward to meeting many readers on the march on the 23rd.
Note: the European Parliament elections are scheduled for 23-26 May, a date range to cater for the different days of the week used for voting in different EU member states. However, the newly elected Parliament does not take up office until 2 July. Therefore any extension of the Article 50 period until before 23 May certainly and 2 July quite possibly could be managed without having to hold such elections. Beyond that, they are very likely to be required, although there are some legal arguments to the contrary.