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Game changer for Farage or a win of sorts for Remain? The main talking points from across the water

Farage’s Brexit Party won the most seats but things are more complicated than that.

European Parliament election Source: Yui Mok/PA Images

THE UK WASN’T even supposed to be voting in the European elections, but now that it has the results could be very consequential indeed.

As expected, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party got the largest share of the vote and seats, seemingly taking a huge chunk of Conservative voters and even some Labour ones too.

He also virtually eliminated his former party Ukip.

The Remain-backing Liberal Democrats will come in in second, followed by Labour and then the Green Party, relegating the Conservatives to fourth.

So what do the results mean and what does it mean for Brexit?

A game changer for Farage?

European Parliament election Nigel Farage looking pleased with himself this morning. Source: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

For a party launched only six weeks ago, the result can only be seen as a success.

The party is set to send the largest UK contingent the European Parliament where it will no doubt endeavour to provide a headache for the EU politicians. Just as French President Emmanuel Macron warned, hence his skepticism about the Brexit extension.

The Brexit Party benefited from a clarity of message and the comparative dithering by the two largest parliamentary parties, but it’s also not a surprise they did well.

Ukip won the most seats in 2014 and the European Parliament vote is probably the most relevant place for UK Brexit supporters to register their euroscepticism.

Arguably, the most significant effect the Brexit Party vote may have is on the Conservative leadership race. Especially, given their new MEPs may only be temporary.

Over the weekend, the Conservative race was being pitched as a battle between hard and soft Brexiteers. This result for the Brexit Party could embolden the latter.

For Farage, he’ll be hoping to do with the Brexit Party what he couldn’t do with Ukip.

That is, to make a dent in the House of Commons under the unforgiving first-past-the-post system.

Speaking this morning to LBC, Farage said his priority is now on the upcoming Peterborough by-election and the next general election.

“I’ve already got a lot of people applying to be general election candidates and I’ve got to start vetting them, interviewing them and getting them ready for the next election whenever that may be,” he said.

A win of sorts for remain?

Liberal Democrats Election Board in London, UK - 18 May 2019 Source: PA Images

The Liberal Democrats have had breakthrough nights before but this time round was something even better for the party. The LibDems have come second in vote share and will have the second-largest contingent of MEPs.

They can legitimately claim to be the biggest pro-Remain party and have already been doing so. Leader Vince Cable said their message was “clear, honest and unambiguous”.

“We have shown ourselves as the strongest Remain force in British politics. Thank you to everyone who put their faith in us. We will stand up for you and keep campaigning to stop Brexit,” he tweeted.

PastedImage-86417 Source: Sky News

One of the major debate points following yesterday’s result has been about what the percentage votes tell us about the numbers of Leave and Remain voters in the UK.

It’s far from a perfect calculation because the positions of Labour and the Conservatives are less clear, but if Labour is added to the Remain column and the Conservatives are added to the Leave column it gives a 53-46% lead for remain.

(This excludes the votes from Scotland and Northern Ireland which are not confirmed yet)

PastedImage-49975 Source: Youtube/Sky News

Can Corbyn cling on for his much-wanted general election?

The majority of Labour MPs support remain and last night’s result may just see the party tilt more clearly towards favouring a second referendum.

The argument against this has been that this may alienate Brexit-supporting Labour voters. Last night’s kicking may have changed minds about this.

The party’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said as much in a series of tweets this morning.

After an initial tweet that seemed to suggest he was in favour of a second referendum, he quickly followed it up with another saying hist first preference was for a general election.

This debate clearly throws more doubt on the position of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

While Corbyn had proved a divisive figure in the party, Labour’s healthy performance in the 2017 general election had brought him some goodwill.

That has all but run out now following two bad elections in a row and a Brexit strategy of constructive ambiguity that is clearly not working.

Corbyn’s argument would probably be that this strategy is designed specifically for a general election but this ignores the fact that he has no power to force one.

It also ignores the fact that Brexit is the issue of the day and appearing weak on it can prove to be curtains for your career. Just ask Theresa May.

The end of Yaxley Lennon?

Far-right figure Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, received just 2.24% of the votes in North West England, putting him in eighth place in the constituency.

The founder of the anti-Islam English Defence League was jailed for contempt of court last year and said he was running for the European Parliament as a way to “fight back”.

If that was the case, he had very little support for his fight.

Robinson was recently banned from Facebook for “calling for violence targeted at Muslims” and he blamed this for his loss in the election.

“Trump ran his campaign on social media, Brexit was won on social media. I’m banned on social media. So my ability to fight a fair campaign is gone,” he said.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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