European Union and British flags flutter in front of a chancellery ahead of a visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2019. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE)
On Thursday, May 23, the UK goes to the polls to vote in the European Parliament elections. This is not unusual in itself; the UK has voted in eight previous European elections. But this time nobody knows how long the elected members of the European Parliament will actually be in place.
The European elections have boiled down to one issue for British citizens: Brexit.
The Brexit referendum of 2016, when 51.9% of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, has resulted in the most passionate yet disorganized period of British politics seen in decades.
The UK was originally set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but the failure of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government to pass any form of legislation regarding Brexit meant the UK had to request an extension for departure from the EU, which currently stands to end on October 31.
All of this means that the UK finds itself in the unusual position of having to hold elections and elect MEPs for a union of which it does not want to be a part and which it has decided to leave.
No issue has divided the British population like this for a long time, and these elections are widely seen as a second, unofficial referendum on Brexit. Alongside the traditional Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties, new parties have emerged with a distinct agenda regarding Brexit.
The major parties find themselves facing all sorts of controversies and issues. May has already said she will step down as prime minister after Brexit is organized, and Jeremy Corbyn has faced severe criticism over his handling of major allegations of antisemitism within his party. This has allowed new parties to emerge and challenge the traditional order.
The vehemently anti-Europe Brexit Party has emerged as the third-biggest UK party in European politics. It is led by the former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, famous for his anti-European and populist rhetoric.
Change UK, a new party founded in 2019, is a mixture of anti-Brexit MPs who have left the Conservatives, and several former Labour MPs who left the party in response to the handling of accusations of antisemitism within the party. Change UK has a diverse list of candidates, including the former deputy Polish prime minister Jan Vincent-Rostowski.
While the Brexit subject continues to be debated in Parliament, with many issues to be sorted out, it is not clear exactly how and when Britain will leave the EU. However, if the UK does indeed leave in October, the newly elected MEPs may soon find themselves out of work.
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