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"This election is taking place completely through the prism of Brexit" - expert comment

Dr Anil AwestiDr. Anil Awesti, Senior Teaching Fellow and Senior Tutor in the Centre for Lifelong Learning, asks whether we are witnessing a reframing of British electoral politics along the fault line of Brexit as the UK goes to the polls.

He comments:

"The European Parliament (EP) elections are being seen across Europe as a contest between a re-emerging nationalist-populist right and traditional mainstream political parties. In a way, the UK is no different. A similar process is playing out here through the significant challenge being posed by the Brexit Party. However, what is unique in the UK is the fact that this election is taking place completely through the prism of Brexit.

"The current EP elections are the first UK-wide elections in which the campaign is absolutely dominated by the Brexit issue. There is a peculiarity to this given that MEPs are not formally involved in Brexit negotiations and Brexit does not fall under their core policy competence. The EP does have to vote in favour of the withdrawal agreement in order for it to take effect but the UK’s contingent of 73 MEPs is only a small part of the 751 MEPs overall.

"We may be witnessing a reframing of British electoral politics along the fault line of Brexit whereby Brexit is the single largest issue in determining how people vote. In this sense, it will be interesting to see if the predicted electoral success of the Brexit Party in the EP election translates into success at the next General Election.

"However, a word of warning is required. To a certain extent, we have been in this situation before. UKIP gained the most votes of any party in the 2014 EP election (27.49%, 24 MEPs) but could not sustain that success in subsequent elections. In the 2015 General Election, UKIP won 12.6% of the vote (1 MP) and only 1.8% in the 2017 General Election.

"This bears out the research which shows that people vote for different parties in different types of elections."

23 May 2019

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