The elections for European Parliament have sent a very clear message to politicians from all political families and this message has two main points: a need of reforms and a further deepening of the integration processes within the European Union itself. The message concerning the need of reforms comes from the fact that traditional parties in the Member States, that are members of the main political blocs in the European Parliament, namely the European People’s Party (ENP) and the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) are losing support with the number of MEPs in both factions decreased proportionately equally: by 38-40. At the same time, the number of representatives of some of the Euro-skeptic factions in the EP is increasing, such as the ENF with dominating representatives from Marie Le Pen’s National Rally and the League of Matteо Salvini as well as the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), which includes representatives of the Italian Five Stars Movement and which will include most probably the representatives of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, have significantly increasеd their representation. It is yet to be understood whether the two factions will unite and will form the third largest group in the EP with 117 MEPs, ahead of the Liberal faction with their 109 seats. This is unlikely, however, given Farage’s reluctance to succumb and share his leadership with French and Italian far-end populists, although the partners from Five Stars Movement are looking for new allies beyond Farage’s suffocating embrace. And given the opportunity for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, which would lead to the breakup of their parliamentary group, as the minimum number of MEPs to form a group is 25 and after the leaving of Brexit, the survival of their faction will be right on the brink. The Euro-skeptic faction of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) has shrunk, which is understandable given the disappointing performance of the Conservative Party of Great Britain, which is at the heart of this parliamentary group. From this point of view, it is clear that voters run away from the status quo parties, considering them to be too rigid and bureaucratized, diverting the European idea from EU citizens. This is one of the reasons for the growth in the representation of Euro-skeptic parties, although the purely national reasons for the rise of some of them should be taken also into consideration.
On the other hand, the idea of greater integration in the EU comes from the support for the Liberal Alliance (ALDE) and Greens(Greens / EFA), which drastically have improved their performance and become key players on the European political scene, from which the work of the main institutions in the Union would depend. De facto, without their participation, together or separately, a majority in the EP will not be able to be formed, as the number of MEPs from the two main ENP and S&D parties is insufficient. In fact, these are exactly the political factions whose representatives defend the most enthusiastically enhanced integration of the European Union and are the main counterpoint to the populist, isolationist, protectionist and nationalist political views of certain political parties and movements in the EU.
In the UK, the voters who were frustrated by the almost three-year saga on the island’s exit from the EU turned their backs on the two main parties and voted for players with clear positions. Thus, the Conservative Party collapsed to fifth in terms of votes, with 9.1% of the total vote, losing nearly 3 million voters over the previous European elections. The Labor Party, which was expecting to be recognised as a counterpart to the ruling Conservatives, also saw a significant drop in its support, becoming third with 14.1%. The lack of clearly articulated support by Jeremy Corbin about a second referendum on Brexit cost the party the loss of almost 2 million voters. Brexit disappointed supporters preferred the newly formed Nagel Farage’s party, Brexit, who managed to win the protest vote. However, its result of 31.6% is significantly lower than the expected 37-38% before the election. UKIP’s overall result, Farage’s former party together with the new Brexit is 34.9% or 5.8 million votes, which is by 1.4 million above the result the UKIP scored in 2014. These numbers clearly show that the lost votes of the Conservative Party only partially spill over into Brexit Party, with the vast majority of about 1.5 million people either have not voted or have headed to other parties and these other parties, if we assume that these votes have not gone to the main opponents – the Labor Party, are those who defend the UK’s stay in the EU. De facto, the Liberal Democrats and Greens are the main winners of the stalled Brexit process..The former increase their election score three times compared to the previous European elections and the second – with 77%, or the two parties in total increased the votes cast for them by 3.2 million, which is more than 2 times than the gain of the two pro-Brexit parties. If other pro-European parties like the Scottish SNP and Wales’ Plaid Cymru are included in the calculations, then the total vote in support for UK to remain in the EU becomes 40.4%, or 5 percentage points higher than the two anti-EU parties.
In fact, the island’s political situation is further complicated after Teresa May’s resignation as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives. In such away, she started a procedure for her successor, which procedure should be finalised by the end of the summer, and so far 11 nominations for her successors have been announced. The main contender is expected to be Boris Johnson, the former UK foreign minister and former mayor of London, but he has been charged with lying to the audience during the 2016 referendum, which could frustrate his plans for the post. Other candidates include Dominique Raab, former EU negotiator for Brexit, who resigned as a sign of disagreement with May’s deal, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, International Development Minister Rory Stuart, Former Minister of Labor and Pensions Esther McVee, Minister of Health and Social Welfare Matt Hancock, Environment Minister Michael Gove, Interior Minister Sajid Javid, and so on. What makes an impression in the first appearances of almost all the nominees is their strong desire to leave the EU whether with or witout a deal. This arouses the fears that the country can leave without a deal with the Union, triggering the inner opposition in the Conservative Party, in the face of Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who said he and a certain group around him would support even a vote of no confidence against their own cabinet if it decides to bring Britain out of the EU without a deal. Of course, this hardening of the contender leaders’ tone is also due to the need to recall some of the disappointed voters who backed Farage’s Brexit party back to the Conservative Party. At the same time, however, the intensification of the final rhetoric for leaving the EU activates the Remain supporters within the Conservative Party, who are increasingly expected to voice their opposition to a Brexit without a deal.
On the other hand, after the disappointing results and the massive flight of supporters of the Labor Party toward the Liberal Democrat and Greens, Labor leader Jeremy Corbin has clearly said that the party will support a second referendum on Brexit, but this time, however, the vote should be between an improved deal, probably renegotiated by a Labor-led government, which should include custom union and better defence of workers rights and the remaining in the EU.
Given the election data, the attitudes of UK citizens, and the inability to reach a political compromise in the current parliament of the UK, the political crisis that emerges is set to be resolved by calling early parliamentary elections. Still, it is not impossible that the Chamber of Commons passes a proposal to instigate a second referendum and force the government to implement it. In such a spirit was the speech of the speaker of the Parliament, John Berkow, who said the Parliament would not allow the UK to leave the EU without a deal. Such a law had already been passed and approved by both Chambers of the Parliament.Thus, at least among MPs there is a majority that will not allow Brexit without a deal and this majority will most probably increase further.
Elections that have made a historic increase in turnout should make Member State politicians understand that EU citizens want a reform of the Union from within. The extremely good performance of the pro-European parties, and especially the Greens as well as the significantly lower than expected performance of the Euro-skeptic parties, suggests that European voters have a common concern about the future of the continent and, in particular, about climate change, and that to disillusioned and excluded citizens a serious consideration should be given if the political establishment does not want the EU to crash under centrifugal, populist powers.
However, as in the United Kingdom, the problem facing EU politicians is less to interpret the results of elections and to work harder to translate them into policies and actions. However, the erosion of the political center, both center left and center right, increases the risk of fragmentation of the European Parliament and gives great political weight to the more extreme views of both the Greens and the far right, which will influence the decisions of the Union as they have quite different views on the priorities and timing of the policies pursued. From this point of view, if fears of lack of political leadership and an adequate response to the signals received are concerned, this would lead to deeper political dissent and economic stagnation. And all this would increase the risk of national and regional polarization.