Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Last month, Theresa May secured a second extension to Article 50, meaning that the deadline for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is now 31st October 2019, unless a deal is reached before 30th June.
Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has already jumped in to make the Halloween metaphor jokes, but there is a deeply serious aspect to this lengthy delay. The Prime Minister still believes that she can secure backing in the House of Commons for her Withdrawal Agreement, something which has been rejected, albeit with consecutively reduced majorities under duress Not only have MPs rejected her deal, but also no deal, revoking Article 50, membership of a customs union, membership of the single market, and a second referendum. MPs have thus far shown themselves to be unwilling to compromise on their 650 different personal visions of Brexit, rendering the likelihood of a positive outcome before Theresa May’s latest preferred departure date increasingly bleak. As with the previous extension, it seems inevitable that UK politicians will again run down the clock without having agreed anything close to resembling what the British voting public chose in June 2016. As a result, the UK is forced to hold European Parliamentary elections, something which Conservative MPs, and the Prime Minister herself, are deeply troubled by.
Not only are these elections, due to be held this Thursday 23rd May disappointing for the Tories, but they fly in the face of democracy. Sending representatives to the institution we opted to leave nearly three years ago will lead to widespread disillusionment, societal divisions, and the increase of unwanted rumblings from the political extremes. Not only will these elections have damaging societal ramifications, the practicalities of taking part will have an estimated cost to the UK taxpayer of £109 million, the cost of 500 Ferrari 458 Spider supercars, or the cost to employ 5,000 fully qualified nurses in the NHS. This country is under financial pressure, homelessness is on the rise and mental health services are at breaking point. We should be spending the money that we do have on our priorities rather than on electing 73 members of a European Parliament which doesn’t have the authority even to propose legislation, and whose representatives earn more than British MPs but work for far fewer hours.
Regardless of the aforementioned consequences to her country, the Prime Minister has officially signed us up to take a full part in the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections, and you wouldn’t be entirely foolish for looking on them as some sort of proxy second EU referendum, the results of which can be used to analyse the mood of public opinion on Brexit. As I read it, polling has not suggested a mass changing of minds since the referendum. If anything, views have hardened, with support for no deal soaring in polls after Theresa May failed to secure backing for her deal. Traditionally, European elections have reflected long-standing British euroscepticism, with 55% of people voting for broadly eurosceptic parties in 2014, pushing UKIP into its first national election win.
If opinion polling is to be believed, the newly formed Brexit Party will claim first place in the European Elections, though due to the proportional vote system used, will likely hold a third of all UK MEP positions. Support for Labour meanwhile, has not dramatically increased. Indeed, many previous Labour voters have expressed their disappointment at what they see as Jeremy Corbyn’s relative euroscepticism in his reluctant attitude towards a second referendum.
These European elections, however reluctantly we enter them, are happening, and provide a golden opportunity for Brexiteers and those who respect democracy to convey a message to the establishment that, despite unfounded threats against the future of our jobs, endless manipulation that we need “another say”, and relentless patronising of our intelligence, we have not changed our minds. However, if the vote for Leave supporters is split, then Labour and other Europhile parties will, as they did with the 2016 referendum, manipulate the result to look as though they are the victors. Indeed, they will be the victors, because not only will Labour be able to spread their toxic socialist message across the Channel at a time when young voters are expressing more free-market capitalist views than any other living generation, but a Labour victory will also legitimise and strengthen calls for a divisive, unnecessary second referendum.
Brexiteers must be strategic if they are to earn success on 23rd May. Tactical voting has proven successful in the past, with left-of-centre parties uniting to field candidates best poised to beat the Tories often cited as a key reason for why Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority in 2017, and this less-than-perfect solution is what is needed to win.
Whilst for European Elections the rather more complicated d’Hondt system of proportional representation is used, meaning that tactical voting doesn’t quite work how it would under first past the post, it’s still possible for parties to strategically determine the numbers of candidates they field, in what areas, and offer support to rivals who also are in support of Leave. If Brexiteers throw their support behind unifying, popular candidates, we will be able to send the strongest possible message to Brussels that, with the full force of the British public, we do not want you anymore.
Though this shouldn’t be necessary, and it’s disappointing to have to fight European elections when we should by now be a free, third-party nation, if done right, this ballot could be the much-needed golden opportunity for Brexiteers to legitimise and reinforce our victory of 2016. For the sake of our democracy and freedom, it’s of monumental importance that we get this right. It’s time for us to tell politicians that, with the votes of the 17.4 million behind us, when we said Brexit in 2016, we meant it, and will not back down to bullies.