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Open Europe's Anna Nadibaidze looks at how the composition of the new European Parliament would change after the UK's departure.
20 June 2019
In May’s European Parliament elections, 751 MEPs were elected across the EU, including in the UK. This came after Brexit was delayed until 31 October, following a decision by the European Council.
After the UK’s departure, the 73 MEPs elected in Great Britain and Northern Ireland will leave the Parliament, which will have an impact on the arrangements of the Parliament’s political groups.
In theory, UK MEPs could have a long-term impact on EU institutions, especially when it concerns the choice of the new leaders for the next European Commission and Council. These decisions will be made while the UK is still in the EU.
The European Parliament has to approve the Council’s choice for Commission President, and there is currently no obvious majority in the EP for any candidate.
If the vote on the President is close and relies on UK MEPs’ votes to get a specific candidate through, it would create a legitimacy problem for this President’s term when the UK leaves and the numbers change.
However, this is an unlikely scenario. If EU leaders eventually decide to follow the Spitzenkandidat system, where the winning candidate of the largest group (the EPP) becomes Commission President, and nominate Manfred Weber, it would be very difficult for him to be approved by the Parliament anyway, as the liberal Renew Europe group (formerly ALDE) and the S&D group refuse to back him.
The Council is more likely to go for a consensus candidate that will gather broad support across groups and parties, rather than allow a scenario where UK MEPs could have the casting vote.
27 of the UK’s seats will be redistributed to other member states which were ‘underrepresented’, while 46 will remain empty in case of potential future EU enlargement, bringing the total number of MEPs down to 705.
The following political groups will be affected by the UK’s departing MEPs:
The 27 seats are to be redistributed only after the UK leaves, with some countries gaining extra MEPs in order to address issues of misrepresentation due to demographic changes.
The parties receiving the extra seats after Brexit are still to be confirmed. However, Open Europe analysis of estimates suggest the following parties will win the reallocated seats:
The following calculations are based on results published on the European Parliament’s website (updated on 20 June), in addition to recent updates about changes in the composition of existing political groups. The political groups can still change until the beginning of July.
Based on these numbers, the post-Brexit European Parliament would look like this:
Overall, whether it is with UK MEPs or without, the European Parliament is more fragmented than it was in the last five years, and it will be difficult to reach compromises on crucial decisions.
After the UK leaves, the two major groups still do not have enough seats to form a combined majority in the EP (334 seats out of 705, or 47%), and will have to rely on another group’s support, likely to be Renew Europe.
Meanwhile, the influence of right-wing Eurosceptics is unlikely to change dramatically: the ID group would grow in numbers, but it will still not have enough power to block legislation on its own. Moreover, there remain too many disagreements between this group’s parties and the ECR, and/or the Five Star Movement, for the Eurosceptic bloc to be a united one.