We’re going to close down this live blog now. Thanks for reading and commenting. Here’s a summary of what’s happened as the results of Thursday’s vote were counted across the European Union:
- The UK’s two main parties were severely punished by voters, who flocked to the Brexit party and the Lib Dems in European elections in the UK. Nigel Farage’s single-issue party gained the most votes of any, while the unequivocally anti-Brexit Lib Dems were second overall. The equally pro-remain Greens were behind Labour in fourth, though that represented an increase in the former’s support and a significant decrease in that of the latter. The Tories had an even worse night and fell to fifth, while Change UK was in seventh. The SNP was sixth overall, but first in Scotland – the only constituent country of the UK in which it stands. Plaid Cymru won a seat in Wales, while the Alliance party, Sinn Féin and the DUP did so in Northern Ireland.
- Across the European Union, the grip of the main centrist parties was weakened, though there was not the predicted surge among far-right and populist Eurosceptic candidates. Such will be returned to European parliament in larger numbers than ever before but their support did not reach the levels some had predicted. And there was significant success for Europe’s Greens, who recorded their highest ever score.
- The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, backed a second referendum on any Brexit deal. Some had criticised what they saw as the party’s equivocating on the issue and the shadow chancellor and close ally of Corbyn, John McDonnell, spoke about Labour backing a vote after the disastrous European election results.
- The outgoing prime minister and Tory leader, Theresa May, called the results disappointing. The party was left with just four seats – compared to the Brexit party’s 29 – and a historically low 9.1% of the vote.
- Following its victory, the Brexit party set its sights on the UK parliament. Nigel Farage urged his supporters to turn their attention to next month’s byelection in Peterborough and told them to prepare for a possible general election.
- The Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, insisted a pact among pro-remain parties could have helped him defeat Farage. Cable, who is stepping down, said protest voters had flocked to the Lib Dems and the task for his successor at the head of the party would be how to bring pro-referendum parties together.
If you’d like to read yet more, my colleagues Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot have this:
Labour needs to change tack, its deputy leader, Tom Watson, has told the BBC.
We’ve lost many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of potential votes in that election because we got it wrong. And the time is now to show some humility, to listen and to move very, very quickly.
The elections of the Alliance party’s Naomi Long and Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson have been confirmed on the fifth count in Northern Ireland. Long secured 170,370 votes after transfers, with Anderson retaining her seat after gaining 152,436.
There were jubilant scenes inside the count centre as the results were confirmed. Long’s supporters chanted “Yes she did” as they presented her with flowers in the Alliance colour of yellow.
The DUP’s Diane Dodds had already retained her seat, meaning Northern Ireland has returned three women to the European Parliament for the first time.
Michael Gove will pledge free British citizenship for 3 million EU nationals after Brexit if he becomes prime minister, as well as abolishing the burden of providing proof of settled status, my colleagues – Lisa O’Carroll and Jessica Elgot – write.
He has given his backing to a campaign by the Conservative party backbencher Alberto Costa, a leading champion of EU citizens’ rights, who said he had spent two months canvassing opinion from leadership candidates on the issue. Costa told the Guardian:
Michael Gove has fully agreed to adopt my proposals and he will publicly announce that it was wrong to put EU citizens on the negotiation table in the first place.
But he will also go further and offer them British citizenship at no cost if he becomes prime minister. This is Michael’s way of saying to EU nationals: I’m sorry, the Vote Leave campaign was never about EU citizens’ rights.
He is unambiguously demonstrating that leaving the EU is not about moving the goalposts of citizens’ rights and accordingly, he has my full support as a candidate for the premiership.
Vince Cable has claimed the Liberal Democrats could have beaten the Brexit party in the European elections if remain forces had formed a pact and said the task for his successor would be how to bring pro-referendum parties together.
Cable said his party, which gained 14 MEPs and came second behind Nigel Farage’s party, said tactical voters had switched to his party in droves, but said more could have been achieved if parties had been prepared to make a pact.
In the event, no great damage was done, but I think we would have actually come out on top if we had been together.
The Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, has openly backed a second EU referendum and said he would vote to remain, as he sought to fend off a torrent of criticism after his party lost both its MEPs in a humiliating rout in the European elections. Leonard has written to Scottish Labour members to say:
As leader in Scotland I accept that constitutional issues have cost us electorally over the last five years and that trust in us has been eroded. We can and we will rebuild that trust.
My intention is to begin to set out a planned way forward over the coming weeks. Starting now, with firmly stating that I back the option to remain and that any Brexit deal should be ratified by a second public vote, one that has clear and credible options for remain and leave.
Leonard is likely to be pressed hard to confirm he wants this new stance on a second EU vote and backing remain to become Scottish Labour’s official policy, particularly at the weekly meeting of his MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday.
If he does do so, that will boost increasing calls from the shadow cabinet today for Labour to embrace a pro-remain stance but put him at odds with Corbyn, the UK party and pro-leave groupings inside the Scottish party.
Leonard faced a furious backlash from party activists and parliamentarians, with calls for an emergency meeting of the party’s Scottish executive, following the worst election result for the Scottish party since 1910. It lost more than 200,000 votes last Thursday compared to the 2014 European election, coming in fifth behind the Scottish Conservatives.
His pro-remain critics, including Ian Murray MP and Martin Whitfield MP, have accused him of allowing the Scottish party to again become a “branch office” of the UK party under Jeremy Corbyn. They are likely to be furious Leonard ignored repeated calls to adopt a much firmer pro-remain stance before last week’s election.
Senior party sources say they repeatedly told Leonard the party would suffer heavily in the election unless they did so, though those sources acknowledge they underestimated the extent of the backlash from voters.
Earlier, it emerged Sajid Javid would seek the keys to Number 10 once Theresa May stands down as Tory leader (see 2.47pm). The Lib Dems believe his record as home secretary should disqualify him from serious consideration. The party’s home affairs spokesman, Ed Davey, has said:
Sajid Javid’s been running for Tory leader ever since he set foot in the Home Office. Scaremongering about refugees, eroding civil liberties and undermining human rights – it’s all straight out of Theresa May’s playbook.
Javid’s record as home secretary should disqualify him from entering Number 10. We’ve just seen what happens when a terrible home secretary becomes a disastrous prime minister. We don’t need a repeat.
Scotland should hold a second independence referendum next year, the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, says. The country’s first minister made the comments on a visit to Dublin, where she said the latter half of 2020 would be the “right time” for a new poll.
There will be another Scottish independence referendum and I will make a prediction today that Scotland will vote for independence and we will become an independent country just like Ireland, and the strong relationship between our two countries now will become even stronger soon.
I want to see Scotland having the choice of independence within this term of the Scottish parliament, which ends in May 2021, so towards the latter half of next year would be when I think is the right time for that choice.
She criticised the UK government for treating Scotland with “utter contempt” over Brexit during the visit.
We voted over 60% to remain, we have tried very hard in the wake of the UK-wide Brexit vote to find compromises and protect our interests, and we have worked hard across party lines to try to prevent the worst impact of Brexit, and we have been ignored.
Scotland has been treated with contempt by Westminster and people are contrasting that with Ireland, that has been shown real solidarity and support from the European Union.
Suddenly, this idea of being a small independent country in the European Union, we only have to look at Ireland to see the benefits of that and many people are having their eyes opened.
Summary: five takeaways from the European elections
Here are five things we have learned from the 2019 European elections across the continent.
- There are no easy generalisations about European politics. Take the six largest EU member states for a scattergun sample of results. In Germany, Angela Merkel’s long-governing Christian Democratic Union came top. In France, the far-right just eclipsed Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche. While the UK was consumed by Brexit, propelling Nigel Farage’s party to victory. Anti-EU populists won big in Italy, where Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party enjoyed a stunning growth in support. But Socialists led the polls in Spain, while Poland’s nationalist government performed best.
- So European politics is becoming more diverse, but a dose of competition may be no bad thing. Populists on the far right and far left have gained more seats, but fell short of the hype and are certain to remain divided. The traditional forces of centre right and centre left have declined, but the surge in support for liberals and Greens means the pro-EU centre remains solid.
- European politics is going greener. Greens are on course for a record number of seats in the European parliament, after coming second in Germany and Finland, winning an unexpected third place in France, making gains in Ireland and the Netherlands and securing the party’s first seat in Portugal.
- Politics is local. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, was ousted on Monday, after a corruption scandal brought down the far-right Freedom party, leading to the collapse of his government. In neighbouring Hungary, the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, gained more seats for his Fidesz party.
- More people care about voting in European elections. Turnout climbed to 50.9%, the highest level since 1994 and the first time participation has ever gone up. As the political scientist Catherine De Vries points out, the average hides a lot of variation. Turnout went down in seven countries and only increased a little in five member states.
Mary Lou McDonald’s Sinn Féin colleague, Michelle O’Neill, has said one of the factors behind the party’s performance south of the border was that working-class voters did not come out.
Clearly we are disappointed with those results and we will have to have a full analysis of all of that – we will do that throughout the course of time.
I think it’s a combination of reasons you could point to very quickly, not least the surge of the Greens and I think the fact in working-class areas the vote didn’t come out.
So, we will have a full analysis of all of that. Clearly, we are disappointed but you know what – we will dust ourselves down and we will go back at it again.
Sinn Féin is 'not simply about winning elections', leader says
Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Féin, said the party was “not simply about winning elections” as she reacted to her party’s poor showing in Ireland’s local elections.
The party president was pressed on the performance as she arrived at the Northern Ireland European election count centre in Magherafelt.
She said: “It has been a challenging weekend for us but you see the thing about Sinn Féin is we will meet challenges, we will even get speed bumps on the road.” She denied the party’s support had plateaued in the Irish Republic.
“Absolutely not, we are only beginning, we have plenty more room for growth,” she said. Asked what the prospects of a general election were, she replied: “Very real and have been for some time. But I would be speculating; I don’t know – ask Leo [Varadkar].”
Cyprus: government hails first Turkish Cypriot MEP
Over in Cyprus, the unprecedented election of a Turkish Cypriot MEP has been welcomed as a triumph of coexistence over ethnic division on the war-partitioned island.
Niyazi Kızılyürek was elected to the European parliament after winning 25,051 votes. In a first, the university professor was fielded by a Greek Cypriot party, the leftwing main opposition Akel, in a move described as symbolic of its “vision for the freedom and reunification of our country.”
Some 5,604 Turkish Cypriots cast ballots, tripling the number of those who voted in the last Euro elections in 2014.
Reacting to Kızılyürek’s election, the Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, said:
Turkish Cypriot participation creates the conditions for all citizens to understand that Europe can help us overcome problems in [reunification] talks and create the conditions where we could be happy living in a reunited country.
The former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat hailed the election, and Akel’s decision to include Kızılyürek on its ticket, as “an incredible development”.
“There are still reasons to be optimistic about the future of our country,” he wrote on social media.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey invaded following an abortive Athens-inspired coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Countless rounds of UN-brokered peace talks to reunite the island have failed.
Kızılyürek , who had campaigned on both sides of the UN-patrolled green line on a pro-reunification platform, greeted his election by saying:
I think it is a special case in itself. It shows that there are many people in our country who are ready to work together for a better Cyprus, for a better Europe.
'This is a vindication of the politics of remain'
The Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald, hugged Martina Anderson, the Sinn Féin candidate who received the most first preference votes, upon arriving at the count in Northern Ireland.
“I think it was very important that a pro-remain candidate topped the poll,” she said.
“I think this result is a resounding rejection of Brexit again. It sends the clearest possible message ... I think this is a vindication of the politics of remain, I think it is vindication of the politics of common sense, it’s about us standing together collectively and protecting our rights and interests.”
Pro-remain vote across the UK is strong, says Alliance party leader
Naomi Long, the Alliance party leader, said the pro-remain vote across the UK was the strongest it had been for years. She expressed confidence Brexit could be stopped. “I think we can and if we don’t it won’t be for a want of trying,” she said.
The former Belfast mayor said she would remain Alliance leader despite having to give up her seat in the assembly, expressing hope the term in Europe would prove to be five years.
“There will be no one more delighted than me if this ends up being a five-year term,” she said, adding that Alliance was benefiting from public disaffection with traditional politics in Northern Ireland.
“I think people are tired of the fact that the stale politics of the past isn’t delivering and I think what we are offering for people are solutions to the problems we have, not just more problems,” she said. “I am totally blown away by the result.”
Conservatives will not take the UK out of the EU by the end of October, Farage says
The Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, has said it is “extremely unlikely” that a future Tory leader will take the UK out of the EU by the end of October.
“The Conservative party are bitterly divided and I consider it to be extremely unlikely that they will pick a leader who is able to take us out on 31 October come what may,” he said during a press conference in central London.
“We might overnight have made their lives a bit easier but I don’t see them being able to deliver and I think the real barrier, the real obstruction to all of this is a two-party system that may well have worked in decades gone by but is no longer fit for purpose.”
Farage took aim at Tory leadership candidates who voted for the prime minister’s Brexit deal. “Which of the leading Tory contenders did not vote for the worst deal in history, Mrs May’s new European treaty? “Why would I trust any of them? Why would I believe any of them?”
He also claimed the Labour party are in “more trouble” than the Conservatives following the European election results.
Northern Ireland: huge rise in Alliance vote
The Alliance party got more than 105,000 votes in the European election in Northern Ireland, resulting in it more than doubling its total from the 2014 poll.
Naomi Long, the party’s leader, was given a rapturous welcome by supporters as she arrived at the count centre. “I am speechless for once, “she said. “I am really delighted, I am thrilled.”
The former East Belfast MP said the size of her vote was “beyond expectations”. Her voice broke as she thanked the people who voted for her. “I take it really seriously and I will serve them to the absolute best of my ability – they have my word on that,” she said.
Italy: Five Star leader calls for revamp after dismal results
A subdued looking Luigi Di Maio said on Monday his Five Star Movement (M5S) party must “reorganise” after its dismal performance in the European elections.
Support for the anti-establishment party slumped by almost half as it was usurped by its national coalition partner, the far-right League, which took 34.3% of the vote compared to M5S’s 17.1%.
“I’m not going to use political speak,” he said during a press conference.
For us, the elections went badly. We will take a lesson from those who didn’t vote for us, we will learn, we won’t die and we will move forward.
Di Maio, 32, said the party had been penalised by a “high rate of abstention, especially in the south”, and that it needed to regroup in order to become more “effective and efficient”. He said he had not faced calls to resign from the party’s founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo.
Di Maio, the deputy prime minister, led the Five Star Movement to become Italy’s biggest in general elections in March last year, before cobbling together a government with the League in order to reach a majority. Since then he has lost ground to his co-deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini.
The elections saw a revived centre-left Democratic party unexpectedly beat M5S to second place.
Sinn Féin members say intensive discussion needed after poor poll results
Sinn Féin members said that intensive discussion was needed after the party suffered losses in local elections.
On Monday, Matt Carthy, the MEP candidate for the Midlands North West constituency in Ireland, said he expected to fight for the final of the four seats, after his first preference votes were down from the 2014 election.
“It’s down on the last election which isn’t surprising given the weekend we’re after having,” he said. “At this point we’re more hopeful than confident but we’re going to be in the mix for the final seat at this stage, so let’s see where it goes.”
He added: “It’s been devastating for so many hardworking councillors. There’s going to be big questions asked because at this point, there’s not one single thing I can point to, it’s not as if we lost our vote to a single entity.”
Carthy noted that votes had not been lost to the Greens, but to independents. “We’re going to have to ask big questions of ourselves and it’s going to be an intensive discussion internally.”
Carthy said he was was at a loss to explain why the party had polled so poorly. “I really, really don’t know,” he said.
Austria: chancellor swept away by Ibiza scandal
Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has been forced out of office, after losing a confidence vote, following a corruption scandal that engulfed his coalition government.
Here is an extract from the story by Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief.
With fresh elections scheduled for early September, Austria will in the interim period be governed by a technocratic government of experts and senior civil servants.
During a debate in which the delegates of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) resolutely refused to lend Sebastian Kurz the customary applause, rightwing populist politicians accused the centre-right chancellor of having tried to use the so-called “Ibiza” scandal to consolidate his power at the top of government.
Opposition delegates said that Kurz, leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), had not shown enough willingness to enter into a dialogue with parliament during his time as chancellor: “You only showed contempt for parliament and Austrian democracy”, said Jörg Leichtfried, an SPÖ deputy.
Brussels: EU leaders prepare for 'top jobs' summit
The European elections are over; the race for Europe’s top jobs is just starting.
The European Union’s 28 heads of state and government will meet in Brussels on Tuesday for a special summit dinner to discuss the election results and the next men and women to lead the EU institutions.
Brexit is definitely not on the menu, but Theresa May is due to attend, in what will be one of her last EU summits.
Five big jobs are up for grabs later this year: the presidents of the European commission, European council, European parliament, European central bank, and Europe’s foreign policy high representative.
Current European council president Donald Tusk last week met France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Giuseppe Conte.
Spain is looking to increase its influence in the EU, after the Socialist party came top in Sunday’s European elections.
Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is having dinner with Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace on Monday and seeing Angela Merkel on Tuesday.
His caretaker government thinks the traditional ‘Franco-German couple’ that has driven European decision-making for decades no longer works.
Spain’s caretaker foreign minister Josep Borrell said:
France and Germany have shown that by themselves they are no longer in a position to advance Europe. More states are needed to participate in the leadership task.
Borrell, a former European parliament president, would like to succeed Italy’s Federica Mogherini as Europe’s foreign policy chief.
As we reported earlier, Borrell gave an interview to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, which included a pretty blunt assessment of Brexit.
Ireland: first seat taken in the Midlands North-west constituency
In Ireland, Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness has taken the first seat in the Midlands North-west constituency.
Speaking immediately after her election, McGuinness said she had already drawn up a to-do list for Brussels. She thanked everyone who voted for her, adding that she was “delighted, relieved and a bit tired”.
The incumbent MEP topped the poll with 134,630 first-preference votes. The quota to reach was 118,986.
The Independent MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan came second to McGuinness with 85,034 first-preference votes. Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy was third on 77,619 and McGuinness’s running mate, Maria Walsh, got 64,500.
The independent Peter Casey beat the Green party candidate Saoirse McHugh with 56,650. McHugh received 51,019. A total of 3.5% of all the votes cast in the constituency were spoiled.
France: centrists v far right has become main political battle
Even though Marine Le Pen’s far-right party came first in France’s European election and gained half a million more votes than last time, Emmanuel Macron’s camp greeted the result with some relief, saying it could have been worse.
The playing down of Le Pen’s first-place position indicated how the far right has steadily become a regular and unquestioned part of French political life despite political opponents condemning it as racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic and hate-mongering.
When Le Pen’s National Rally topped the poll with 23.31%, less than one point ahead of Macron’s centrist grouping on 22.41%, the government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye defined the slim margin as an honourable result for Macron, given the context. European elections traditionally bring out an anti-government protest vote. After more than six months of unprecedented yellow-vest protests and low approval ratings for the president, Macron’s party had done well to come so close to Le Pen, government figures argued. The French far right’s percentage score was down on 2014.
Northern Ireland: Arlene Foster arrives at count
Arriving at the count centre, Democratic Unionist party leader Arlene Foster said:
Of course, we would have preferred to have had two unionist MEPs returned – what we have instead is a nationalist MEP, a very strong unionist MEP and an MEP who identifies as neither.
When I look at the votes, which I think is very important, I notice that unionism is still ahead by over 40,000 votes and of course I am very pleased about that.
Obviously we would have preferred to see two unionist MEPs returned but I am absolutely delighted with our turnout today and the fact our vote has increased again.
Asked to explain the Alliance surge, Foster said there were a number of factors, including a low turnout and her contention that some people who voted Leave felt it unnecessary to register their view a second time.
We found that when we spoke to people they said ‘we have already voted, we told what you want, we want out of Europe’.
UK: Rory Stewart gets first backer for Tory leadership
Victoria Prentis has become the first Tory MP to back the “radical central ground” candidate Rory Stewart for leadership of the party.
“Rory is the person we need to unify the country & the party & deliver #Brexit quickly. He has the track record, energy & the ideas,” she tweeted.
According to Conservative Home 122 MPs (38% of the electorate) have declared support for one of the candidates, but until Prentis tweet none had done so for Stewart.
If you’d like to have a chat with Rory, he’s in Barking looking for people to debate.
The Remain-backing Tory MP, Nicholas Soames, has also been dutifully retweeting Stewart’s campaign tweets without explicitly stating he intends to back him.
Austria: chancellor faces sack in no-confidence vote
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz looks all but certain to lose his job, despite a convincing first-place result for his centre-right People’s party (ÖVP) in European elections.
The ÖVP took 35% of the vote, winning seven of Austria’s 18 seats in the European parliament. The Socialists came second with five seats, while the far-right Freedom party gained three, after being hit by a corruption scandal days before the poll.
The Austrian chancellor, Europe’s youngest leader, is now facing a motion of no-confidence in the caretaker government he leads.
Here is Reuters in Vienna on the story:
Kurz now heads a caretaker government that he hopes to use as a springboard for re-election, presenting himself as more of a victim of the political crisis set off by the video than an enabler of it who brought the far right to power.
But with the next election expected in September, opposition parties say Kurz must share the blame, and they moved in parliament to depose what is effectively a minority government in which FPO ministers were replaced by civil servants.
“The Kurz government has failed,” the Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) deputy parliamentary faction head Joerg Leichtfried said in a speech to parliament, minutes before his party submitted the motion.
Kurz gambled away his chances and, Mr Chancellor, you bear full responsibility.
FPÖ lawmakers earlier unanimously agreed to support the SPÖ motion, several of those who attended a party meeting told reporters. The two parties have 103 seats combined in the 183-seat lower house of parliament, easily giving them the majority required for the motion to pass.
If Kurz goes, Austria’s president will nominate a new chancellor to put together a caretaker government able to last until the election.
Kurz sought to present himself as a force for stability, telling MPs:
To topple the government a few months before an election is something few people in this country can understand.
UK: Sajid Javid announces he's standing to lead the Conservatives
The home secretary and former investment banker has announced his candidacy to become the leader of the Tory party.
Only 11 MPs have so far declared support for Javid, according to the Conservative Home website. That puts him in fifth behind Jeremy Hunt on 29, Boris Johnson on 23, Michael Gove on 22 and Dominic Raab on 20.
Greece: possible breakthrough for Varoufakis party
A thriller is underway in Greece with ever more media reporting that it will be a matter of votes as to whether Yanis Varoufakis’s European Realistic Disobedience Front (MeRA 25) party wins a seat in the European parliament.
MeRA 25 is part of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), an alliance of left-wingers and greens ran candidates, which ran candidates in eight countries, with Varoufakis trying and failing to secure a seat in Germany.
In Greece, with 86.12% of vote counted at 16.12 local time, MeRA 25 had garnered 3.02 % - enough to win one seat in the European Parliament according to Singular Logic, the software company supplying official data for the vote count.
If the result holds, the party will send Sofia Sakorafa, a former Syriza party MEP and world-breaking Olympic Javelin thrower, to Brussels and Strasbourg.
Varoufakis, who says MeRA 25 is now bracing for early elections, had described the result earlier today as a “small political revolution”.
The fiercely anti-austerity former finance minister may well prove to be the biggest thorn in the side for leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras in the coming weeks as the country girds for snaps polls.
Belgium: far-right success complicates coalition talks
Belgium is digesting a surge in support for the far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party that will make forming a new government more difficult than ever.
While wealthy Dutch-speaking Flanders moved to the right, the Francophone region of Wallonia went left, raising the prospect of months of wrangling to form a new coalition government.
The far-right Vlaams Belang gained 18 seats in elections to Belgium’s federal parliament on Sunday, up from three. It also took three seats in the European parliament.
Reuters spoke to one citizen in central Brussels, who summed up the problem.
Bob Deleeck, a 43-year-old voter, told the agency:
I think it’s going to be very difficult [to form a federal government].
You see that this is two countries under one flag. They should make it a confederation.
The moderate separatist party, the New Flemish Alliance, lost eight seats, but remains the biggest party in the Belgian federal parliament.
In Wallonia, the Socialist party topped the poll, winning 20 seats, although lost votes. The hard-left Workers’ Party of Belgium came from nowhere to win 12 seats.
Christian democrats and liberals lost seats everywhere, while Greens made gains in Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and bilingual Brussels.
As customary in Belgian government formation, King Philippe of Belgium is meeting leaders of all the main parties.
The NVA is considering whether it should open talks with the far-right.
NVA politician Zuhal Demir said she did not support the long-established cordon sanitaire that has kept the far-right out of Belgian governments.
I am not for the cordon sanitaire. It is not democratic. But of course, fundamentally, we [the VB and NVA] are certainly very different.
Northern Ireland: pro-remain party on course to win seat
The election is set to shake up the political landscape in Northern Ireland with the third seat in the three-seat constituency almost certain to the pro-remain Alliance Party.
After the first count the party’s leader Naomi Long was hot on the heels of the two main political parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, who were in first and second place.
Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, uses a proportional representation system.
After the first count Sinn Fein were in first place with Martina Anderson polling 126,951 votes, followed by the Democratic Unionist party’s Diane Dodds with 124,991. Long polled an astonishing 105,928 in a potential re-set of the Brexit debate in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) currently hold two of the three seats in the European parliament with the UUP, which holds the third, looking as if it will be usurped.
Former Stormont minister Danny Kennedy stood as the UUP’s candidate following the retirement of long-serving MEP Jim Nicholson.
The UUP campaigned for remain in the referendum but switched to become a pro Brexit party insisting the result of the referendum must be respected.
If Long is elected it will mean two of the three seats in Northern Ireland are pro-remain, and by extension, pro-backstop.
UK: Brexit party demands place at talks table
Members of the Brexit party should now be brought in by the government to take part in negotiations with the European Union, senior figure in the party have demanded.
The call by Nigel Farage was echoed by Richard Tice, who has just been elected as one of the party’s three MEPs in the East of England constituency.
Asked on the BBC’ Radio 4 news programme The World at One if the party was “serious” in the demand, he replied: “We seriously expect Westminster to listen this time and understand that voters have said yes we back these capable and experienced candidates. They need to come, they have experience of negotiations.
Tice was less clear on whether the party would be open to an electoral pact with the Conservatives in the event of a general election however.
Pressed on the question, he replied: “We are not going to start talking about pacts now. We have just won an election from a standing start.”
Another new Brexit party MEP, the former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, told BBC television that the party would contest a general election if the UK did not leave the EU or if it left “in name only”.
Doing so would be difficult but the party had deliberately drawn from a broad political spectrum and would come up with policies it could unite around, she added.
Spain: 'I don’t care whether UK leaves EU' – outgoing foreign minister
Spain’s outgoing foreign minister Josep Borrell - tipped by some for the post of the EU foreign policy chief – has accused the UK of being an insurmountable barrier to his agenda of a European political union, and says he is, as a result, indifferent about whether the UK leaves, so long as the departure is not chaotic.
Borrell led the successful Spanish socialist campaign in the European parliament elections, and has given an interview in which he questions whether the UK will be allowed to stay beyond the next deadline of 31 October.
Even if he spurns a major commission portfolio, or is not offered one, Borrell – a former president of the European parliament – will be a big player.
His remarks suggest Spain is increasingly willing to accept a no-deal Brexit to achieve greater integration.
In the interview with the European Council on Foreign Relations he said: “I am of the school who believes that with the UK in the EU we will never have a political union. If what it’s all about is a political union, the UK is not a good member of the club and they’ve never hidden that from us.
“We kept thinking we could talk them round, but the proof is in the pudding – they don’t want it and they are leaving precisely because they don’t want what they can see is happening.
He added: “Personally, because I do want a political union, I don’t care whether the United Kingdom leaves because I know that to date, it has been an obstacle to further integration.”
In the interview, he highlighted the ambivalence of fellow EU states to the UK’s departure, saying: “There are two takes on this: the people who really don’t want the British to leave and are willing to give them every possible extension, wait for them to get sick of the whole thing and decide to stay.
“And those who accept they are going – even some who may think it’s not a bad idea– but are afraid of the practical implications of no-deal because they don’t know how they’re going to manage border flows, the new customs tariffs, the movement of people … All of that is very complicated, it causes fear and they prefer … well, nobody goes to the dentist until they have to, right? And they prefer to put it off to next week.”
He also explained his frustration with the lack of a clear EU foreign policy.
“To me, the Foreign Affairs Council is more a valley of tears than a centre of decision-making because it’s where all the open sores of humanity come,” he said.
“They tell us their sufferings, we express our condolence and concern … but no capacity for action comes out of it and we just move on to the next one.”
UK: a vote for hard Brexit or for remain?
Support for pro-remain parties eclipsed pro-leave parties, despite the Brexit party’s overall victory, the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh writes in this analysis piece.
He adds that Nigel Farage’s Brexit party may have triumphed in the European election by a significant margin, but there is enough data for remain supporters to argue that their side was victorious on the night – and that they could win any second referendum.
There are several ways to make plausible comparisons. The simplest is to compare the Brexit party’s 5.2m votes across Great Britain (Northern Ireland is not due to declare until Tuesday) with the “Bollocks to Brexit” Lib Dems and the pro-remain Greens, who attracted 3.4m and 2m. Taken together, they come out 132,000 votes higher at 5.4m.
A second method is to take all the pro-Brexit parties – Farage’s party and Ukip – and compare that against the pro-remain parties, taking in Change UK and the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. That gives you 5.8 million voting unambiguously pro-Brexit – or 34.9% – and 6.7 million voting for remain parties, including 753,000 from the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, or 40.4%.
Northern Ireland: vote count ongoing
Voters are being counted in Northern Ireland, where there is speculation that a strong showing by the cross-community Alliance Party means that it will take the third European parliamentary seat there at the cost of the Ulster Unionist Party.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Diane Dodds and Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson are expected to take the other two seats on a turnout which the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland put at more than 45%, a drop from 2014.
Dodds will top the poll with 102,000 votes, according to SDLP tallies, which are being reported by the BBC’s Darran Marshall. The Alliance candidate, its leader Naomi Long, was in third place with around 75,000 votes.
Taking the seat would represent Alliance’s biggest breakthrough since Long ousted the DUP from one of its strongholds, east Belfast, in 2010. The DUP subsequently recaptured the seat in 2015.
Greece: post-mortems and early elections
There is much soul-searching in Greek government circles today following the unexpectedly heavy defeat of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party in the European elections.
With almost 83% of the vote counted, the leftist party was shown to be lagging behind New Democracy, its centre right opponent, by 9.44 percentage points, winning 23.7% of the vote compared with 33.23 %.
Tsipras – who in a late address on Sunday announced he would call early elections following run-offs in local elections next weekend - will convene Syriza’s central committee at 7pm local time. Insiders say he will dissect the disappointing result “but also seek to rally us in what will be a very intense month of campaigning”.
The snap poll, expected to take place on 30 June, comes four months ahead of schedule.
New Democracy’s victory is being seen as a vindication for its reformist leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the liberal wing of a party that for decades has operated on a clan basis espousing conservative views that have ranged from ultra-nationalist to the populist right, including dyed-in-the-wool homophobes and antisemites.
The scale of the defeat will not only quieten internal dissent but allow 51-year-old Mitsotakis, who formerly represented a small centrist group within the party, to press ahead with root-and-branch modernisation.
“He has solidified his position and will now be in a better place to advance his own reformist and centrist agenda,” says the political commentator Pantelis Kapsis.
Not since 1981 has a party won so decisively in European elections. “But with 33.23 it is far from clear whether it is enough to win a parliamentary majority in national elections,” adds Kapsis.
There was rejoicing in another quarter of the political hemisphere this morning as the former finance minister minister Yanis Varoufakis celebrated his MeRA25 party also returning one MP to the European parliament after garnering 3.03% – much of it at the expense of Syriza.
Speaking on local radio this morning, Varoufakis likened the win to a “small political revolution”.
Syriza’s defeat, he said, was emblematic of the degree to which Greeks had “totally rejected” the government’s embrace of neoliberal policies dictated by international creditors that have long kept the debt-stricken country afloat.
Telegenic and articulate, Varoufakis may well emerge as Tsipras’s greatest challenger in the campaign ahead.
UK: Magid Magid's unlikely journey to Green MEP
The outgoing lord mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid was elected as the first Green MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber on Sunday.
The Guardian’s video team followed his campaign.
UK: May says election results should 'focus minds in parliament'
The outgoing prime minister, Theresa May, has made her first public comments since she announced her resignation on Friday. May said the results highlight the importance of finding a Brexit deal.
Romania: head of social democrat party heading for jail after corruption sentence upheld
It’s been a terrible 24 hours for Romania’s ruling social democrat party.
Fresh from picking up just 23% of the vote in European elections, its chairman Liviu Dragnea has had his three-and-a-half year sentence for corruption upheld by Romania’s highest court and will now be going to jail.
Dragnea is the country’s most powerful politician and was widely seen as having a large say in running the government behind the scenes.
A profile of him is here. In recent months, the party has been discussing various possibilities for an amnesty law that would allow Dragnea and other officials to escape jail for corruption convictions.
Brussels has strongly opposed this, and more than 80% of people voted for a ban on amnesty for corruption cases in a non-binding referendum held alongside European voting on Sunday.
UK: MEPs for Scotland confirmed
Following the declaration in the Western Isles, Scotland’s MEPs have been confirmed. Three have been elected from the SNP, one from the Liberal Democrats, one from the Brexit party and one from the Conservatives.
- Alyn Smith (SNP)
- Christian Allard (SNP)
- Aileen McLeod (SNP)
- Louis Stedman-Bryce (Brexit party)
- Sheila Ritchie (Lib Dem)
- Baroness Nosheena Mobarik (Conservatives)
Europe: Salvini and Le Pen seek far-right EU parliament grouping with Brexit party
Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is not only the biggest party in the UK, but also one of the largest in the European parliament.
The Brexit party is tied for the title of largest party with Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU alliance. Both have 29 seats, according to the latest results.
In second place is Matteo Salvini’s far-right League, with 28 seats, while Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is the third largest with 23. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has 22 seats, just ahead of Emmanuel Macron La République En Marche, on 21.
But being the largest party doesn’t mean much in the European parliament, without being part of a pan-European group, the conduit to greater funding and speaking slots. The success of Farage’s parties has stemmed partly from access to EU funds and the platform of the European parliament.
Farage currently leads the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, a group that is a marriage of convenience with Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and smaller eurosceptic parties. But Five Star are thought to be seeking new allies, which risks the break-up of the Farage-led group.
To form a group, parties must have at least 25 MEPs from seven countries.
Salvini would like Farage to join his far-right group, the Europe of Freedom and Nations, which also includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. The Italian deputy prime minister name-checked Farage in his victory speech on Sunday night.
“Not only is the League the first party in Italy, but also Marine Le Pen is the first party in France, Nigel Farage is the first party in the UK ... It is the sign of a Europe that is changing.”
Farage has always refused to ally with the far-right in the European parliament, a move that could be toxic for some of his new MEPs and the Brexit party’s domestic image. Farage also quit Ukip over its drift to the right, which was partly demonstrated in Ukip’s decision to ally with the far-right in the European parliament.
Before the elections, a source in the Salvini group said it was unlikely the Brexit party would join them, because Ukip were members. Ukip has now lost all its MEPs.
Last week a Brexit party spokesman said “we are not even thinking” about what happens until the votes are cast.
Scotland: big SNP victory confirmed after final declaration
The SNP has come top in the Western Isles in the final declaration in Scotland, winning 43.7% of the votes. The Brexit Party was second with 1,640 votes (19.9%), Labour in third with 814 votes (9.9%) and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in joint fourth with 611 votes (7.4%).
The results confirm a sweeping SNP victory in Scotland in which Scottish Labour failed to win a single European seat after more than 200,000 voters deserted the party over Brexit and it suffered its worst election in modern political history.
The elected MEPs will be announced shortly.
Germany: far-right AfD attacks "rabbit" Greens
Germany’s far-right AfD has named the Greens its main rival after the environmentalist party’s strong showing at European elections, as it insisted that data showed “no consensus” that climate change is man-made.
“They are our main competitors. We’re taking them very seriously,” said Joerg Meuthen, who headed the AfD’s European elections list.
The Greens stole a march on the AfD in Sunday’s vote, doubling their share from the last European elections to just over 20 percent and coming in second after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right alliance.
In comparison, the AfD, which had styled itself as the champion of diesel car owners and coal mines, obtained only 11 percent - underperforming its 2017 national elections showing.
On Monday, Meuthen derided the Greens as “rabbits that will make smaller and smaller hops because at some point, a test will come and it will be devastating.”
“They are not conservationists, what they do with their wind technology and such is an obvious destruction of nature,” he charged.
The AfD leader also hit out against those who call his party climate change deniers, as he claimed that “it is not about denying man-made climate change, but about data that is not certain.”
“I’m saying we have doubts and I would like the so-called climate policies to allow for doubts, allowing for a greater margin of error.” (Via AFP)
Europe: possible Brexit clash in Lib Dem & En Marche parliament grouping
The next European parliament brings an intriguing alliance between Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party and the resurgent Liberal Democrats.
In a sense, European parliament elections happen twice: once on polling day and a second time in the month after the vote, when parties across Europe scramble to forge pan-European alliances.
As the results came in on Sunday night it was revealed that Emmanuel Macron’s 21 MEPs would join forces with other liberal parties to create a new centrist force, which will be the third largest in the parliament, with 109 MEPs.
That means Macron’s MEPs will be allied to the Liberal Democrats, raising a possible clash over Brexit.
The Liberals Democrats, who will be arriving in Brussels with a record 15 MEPs, attribute their success to an unambiguous call for a second referendum. It’s a huge gain for the party, which was reduced to just 1 MEP in 2014 and had been hoping to get a dozen this time around.
This could cause tensions within the group, which many in Brussels expect to be led by Nathalie Loiseau, France’s former Europe minister, who was top of Macron’s MEP list. It could also be a useful backroom channel to the Élysée ahead of yet more crunch EU summits on Brexit.
UK: PM hopeful Dominic Raab lays out Brexit plans
The former Brexit secretary has said there is still time to negotiate a legally binding exchange of letters to remove the Irish backstop from the withdrawal agreement with the EU.
“I’m the negotiator who Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt complained pushed Brussels too hard,” he adds.
UK: Corbynism is now in crisis, writes Paul Mason
“Leave voters thought we were pro-remain; remain voters thought we were pro-leave and the membership were so fed up they refused to take part in the campaign.” That’s how a senior Labour politician in the party’s Welsh heartlands described the European parliament election drive. The results were inevitable, writes Paul Mason.
Labour came third in Wales, behind Plaid Cymru. In Yorkshire and the Humber it suppressed its own vote so badly that turnout in Hull slumped to 24%. Labour won around 14% of the popular vote – down 10 points on 2014 – and is set to lose nearly half its seats in Brussels.
There are upsides to this dreadful night: Tommy Robinson was defeated in humiliating fashion. And once Scotland is counted the combined votes of the outright pro-remain parties should be higher than the outright leave total. If this was a proxy referendum, as Jeremy Corbyn now admits, nobody really won it hands down.
Read the full piece here:
UK: dreadful night for Ukip
A near complete collapse in support for Ukip, which saw all of its MEPs lose their seats, has cast doubts over whether the party will continue as a viable political entity.
The pro-Brexit party suffered a drop of more than 24 percentage points in its vote share as supporters deserted it in droves for the Brexit party, now led by the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Ukip’s current leader, Gerard Batten, lost the seat he has held since 2004 in the European parliament’s London constituency, where the party finished in seventh place.
Batten, who has increasingly led the party towards embracing far-right positions, can look forward however to drawing a pension from the European Union budget, which pays MEPs a pension of 3.5% of their salary for each year worked.
In the South West, once a stronghold for the party and where it won two seats in 2014, the party received just 53,739 votes. Its failed candidates there included Carl Benjamin, a self-styled provocateur and alt-right YouTube personality who was second on its regional list, and was being investigated by police for speculating about whether he would rape the MP Jess Phillips.
While Batten was keeping a low profile on Monday, the party’s Twitter account congratulated Farage and the Brexit party, adding that it had been “a bad night for Ukip but a good night for the country”.
“It’s time for reflection and planning and figuring out how we can all best serve our country.”
Those speculating that the result would mean the end of the party, which had 24 MEPs elected in 2014, included its former deputy leader David Bannerman. Suzanne Evans, a former deputy chair, had told the BBC that the collapse of the Ukip vote had come as no surprise after Batten had led the party in a “very nasty far-right direction”.
UK: Corbyn says general election still the priority despite public vote pressure
Jeremy Corbyn has appeared to dampen down speculation that the party would push for a second referendum after the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tweeted this morning that the issue of Brexit must be taken “back to people in a public vote”.
Asked on the BBC if McDonnell was referring to a general election or a second referendum, the Labour leader said: “The priority at the moment I think is for this government to call a general election and actually have a general election so we can decide the future.
“I think that is the demand that should be made and made as strongly as possible,” he added during his first appearance on television since the night’s European parliamentary election results.
“John has also pointed out that any final deal has to be put to a public vote and that we are prepared to do.”
Pressed on whether Labour would be a party that supported remaining in the European Union in a second referendum, he replied: “What this party does is support an agreement with the European Union to prevent crashing out … Supports putting that proposal, when agreed, to a public vote.”
UK: Corbyn says Brexit will have to go back to the public
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been speaking to the BBC after last night’s poor election results for his party. The MP for Islington North said Labour had had a very clear Brexit policy all along, adding it was clear that the issue would have to be put to the public again in a general election or a public vote.
We will bring you the full quotes when we have them.
Europe: Brexit party set to be joint largest in EU parliament
Sweden: nationalist and populist party makes largest gains
The nationalist and populist Sweden Democrats party has made the largest gains in the European parliament elections by grabbing 15.4% of the votes, up 5.7 percentage points over the last election in 2014. It is likely to translate to three seats in the EU parliament.
The ruling Social Democrats remain Sweden’s largest party in the European assembly, winning 23.6 % of the votes to get five seats. They are followed by the country’s second-largest party, the Moderates, which got four seats.
The Sweden Democrats, the country’s third largest party, had earlier pushed for a referendum on leaving the EU, which Sweden joined in 1995. However, the party now says it wants to work with like-minded parties from across the EU to change “the supranational union”. (Via AP)
UK: Labour's Starmer calls for second Brexit referendum
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has become the latest high-profile Labour MP to call for a second Brexit referendum after last night’s European elections.
UK: winners and losers in the European elections
Tommy Robinson was a big loser in the European elections, writes Frances Perraudin.
The founder of the far-right English Defence League got just 2.2% of the vote in the North West, losing his £5,000 deposit. The anti-Islam activist, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, told journalists the establishment had “arranged and organised” for him to be banned from social media to scupper his election bid, before sneaking out of the count in Manchester early.
Read the full list here:
UK: anti-Brexit message key to success, says Green party's Lucas
Caroline Lucas has credited the Green party’s messages prioritising action on the climate crisis and rejecting Brexit with delivering its best result in decades as it pushed the Tories into fifth place in England and Wales, writes Ben Quinn.
The number of Green MEPs more than doubled from three to seven as its share of the vote increased by 4.6% to 12.5%. Its leadership said the strong showing by it and other anti-Brexit parties bolstered the case for a new referendum.
UK: pro-remain parties outperform hard Brexit parties
Central Europe: a mixed bag of results
The results from central Europe, a region where populist politics have become entrenched in recent years, can be read in a number of different ways. On the one hand, Hungary’s far-right ruling Fidesz party won 52% of the vote and 13 of the country’s 21 seats, while Poland’s populist Law and Justice (PiS) party won a convincing victory despite hopes before Sunday that an opposition coalition might just sneak into first place.
But there were also some signs of optimism for liberals. In Hungary, the newly formed Momentum party surpassed all expectations, taking around 10% of the vote and two seats in the European parliament. The party ran on a platform of progressive politics and increased European integration, the polar opposite of the rightwing, nationalist agenda of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
In Slovakia, first place went to a progressive coalition that had supported the country’s liberal president-elect Zuzana Čaputová in elections earlier this year, although the neo-fascist party of Marian Kotleba got 12% of the vote and will send two MEPs to Brussels. Turnout was up from five years ago, but was still the lowest in the EU at 22%.
In Romania, the ruling Social Democrats, who have been accused of rolling back democracy and using populist tactics, took a kicking on polling night, pushed into second place. The centre-right PNL party took 26% of the vote to 23% for the Social Democrats, while a newly formed liberal coalition, USR-PLUS, took 21%. Among the country’s large diaspora vote, from Romanians living in other EU countries, USR-PLUS looked set to win the vote, with more than 40% after two-thirds had been counted.
Poland: ruling rightwing PiS party tops polls
Poland’s governing rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) won the European elections, near-complete official results showed on Monday, with its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, urging a wider victory in the autumn general election.
The PiS took 45.56% of the vote to win 27 of Poland’s 51 seats in the European parliament compared with 38.30% and 22 seats for the liberal European Coalition, according to official results from 99.31% of polling stations.
The progressive Spring party took 6.04% for three seats while the far-right Confederation group failed to cross the 5% threshold required to enter the European parliament.
“We won but with a result that should push us to one thing: to work hard before the parliamentary elections this autumn,” said Kaczynski at PiS campaign headquarters in Warsaw. (Via AFP)
UK: Labour's McDonnell backs second Brexit referendum
UK: Conservative party deputy chair hints at leadership bid
The Conservative party deputy chair James Cleverly has hinted he fancies joining the leadership race by calling on the Tories “to look different, sound different, and do different things”.
In a series of tweets he said: “We need to deliver Brexit in order to be believed and listened to, and when people start listening again we better have something more interesting to say than ‘more of the same’.”
The cabinet minister Liz Truss has backed calls for the the UK to leave the EU with or without a deal.
The former remainer, who ruled herself out of the leadership race on Sunday, tweeted: “These terrible election results are not a surprise. It’s because of the failure to leave the EU when we said we would. We must leave by 31 October deal or no deal.”
UK: Labour must 'take clearer line on public vote', says Abbott
More reaction from Labour’s top team, this time from the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott. It follows calls from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, for the party to back a second public vote.
UK: Tory MPs clamour to back no-deal Brexit
“We should be careful not to interpret this as a mandate for no deal,” according to Sam Gyimah, the former universities minister who resigned over Brexit.
But increasing numbers of his Conservative colleagues are interpreting the result as a mandate to leave without a deal. They include the former environment secretary Owen Paterson, former cabinet minister John Redwood, who said the UK should leave immediately with no deal, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the ERG.
Rees-Mogg also congratulated his sister Annunziata for her “amazing result” after she was elected as an MEP for the Brexit party.
Germany: Varoufakis's party stalls
When the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced he would compete for a seat in the European parliament not in his native Greece but in Germany, it had promised to turn the conventions of European politics on their head.
His party, DiEM25, ran with a pan-European list of Greek, Austrian and Croatian candidates, and proposed eye-catching ideas such as livestreaming European summits and meetings of the European Central Bank. Varoufakis’s mission, he said, was nothing less than to “democratise Europe”.
Yet Sunday was a sobering night for the man once famous for rocking up at government summits on a motorbike. DiEM25 failed to gain a single seat, with only 130,072 votes and a 0.3% overall share.
In spite of celebrity support from Pamela Anderson and widespread media coverage, Varoufakis’s party was outperformed by minority parties such as the Animal Protection party, the Family party, the Pirate party and satirical outfit Die PARTEI.
DiEM25’s campaign relied on volunteer support, with the party having outright rejected donations from big donors and European institutions. But its supporters will ask themselves if ultimately it was their own lead candidate who shackled the new party’s ambitions in Germany: in the run-up to the vote, Varoufakis had announced that he would resign from his seat “within weeks” even if he was elected, to focus on Greek elections in the autumn.
Europe: Green parties surge across the continent
Green parties in Germany, France, Britain and elsewhere in the European Union are celebrating big gains in elections for the bloc’s 751-seat parliament amid growing voter concerns over climate change.
Provisional results early Monday showed the Greens’ bloc coming fourth in the election with 70 seats, an increase of 18 compared with 2014.
If confirmed, the results could put the Greens in a position to tip the scales when it comes to choosing the next head of the EU’s executive commission.
In Germany, the Greens came second with over 20%, gaining more than a million votes from each of the two governing centrist parties.
Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Union bloc, called the results “a wake-up call for politics”
UK: Conservatives face 'obliteration' without Brexit, says Steve Baker
Steve Baker, deputy chair of the European Research Group of hard-Brexit MPs, warned that the Conservatives faced “obliteration” if the the UK did not leave the EU now.
Speaking to BBC News he said: “This is the worst result we have ever had in the history of the Conservative party. It is a grave time for our party and our country. I’m not surprised that it as bad as it is. You just can’t break promises you’ve made like this and expect to go unpunished.”
Baker said he had still not ruled out standing for the leadership of the party but said he was “very, very conscious that we don’t want an enormous plethora of Eurosceptic candidates dividing the vote in parliament”.
Baker also attacked leading members of his party, including the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and international development secretary, Rory Stewart, who refused to rule out voting no confidence in the government if it pursued a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “For Conservative MPs we have got to stay in power and that means speaking extremely seriously about what they say in media appearances. And not for example threatening to bring down the government over something which parliament has already legislated for and which was until recently government policy.”
He added: “At this point we will see the debate crystallising between those who are willing to take us out, even if that means no withdrawal agreement and going on to WTO terms, versus those who are flirting with revoke or indefinite extension which would be a miserable place for our country.”
UK: Labour must back second Brexit referendum, says shadow chancellor McDonnell
A big intervention from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, on Labour’s Brexit policy. All eyes on Jeremy Corbyn.
UK: 'People want us to get on with it,' says Javid
Scotland: voters rejecting Brexit, says SNP's Blackman
Some early reaction to the European election results from Scottish politicians. The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader, Kirsty Blackman, said her party’s highest-ever EU vote at 38% “shows that Scotland is rejecting Brexit” on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland.
The Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish insisted on the same programme that her party’s collapse in support at the EU polls should not mean its leader, Richard Leonard, considers his position: “We did have a nuanced message which was complex and we are reflecting on that, but I am absolutely clear that Richard Leonard is the right person to lead us.”
The Scottish Conservative MP Andrew Bowie described a “bruising night” for his party, adding that the SNP ran “a clear and concise campaign”, but said the result could not be read as a surge in support for Scottish independence.
Meanwhile, one of the Brexit party’s Scottish candidates, Jim Ferguson, told GMS he had encountered “a genuine desire for change in Scotland”, adding that a “huge number of Labour leavers” had come over to the Brexit party.
“What I’ve found is a level of passion and support for Brexit on the streets of Scotland because we are giving people a voice.” He added that the Brexit party was “now moving to a full war footing” and that candidates would be “marching on Holyrood” for the 2021 elections.
UK: Labour needs to 'get off Brexit fence', says Lib Dem Swinson
The Lib Dem deputy leader, Jo Swinson, has said Labour needs to clarify its Brexit policy after last night’s European elections. She told the BBC:
Clearly Labour has had an atrocious night and absolutely needs to get off the Brexit fence.
I spoke to so many former Labour voters, people in some cases who had voted Labour their entire lives, who voted Liberal Democrat for the first time on Thursday.
We have really been bringing people together as the Liberal Democrats - to be able to get Michael Heseltine and Alistair Campbell united in the voting booth is no mean feat.
UK: Caroline Lucas says leave parties did not win European election
Responding to Nigel Farage’s claim that pro-leave parties had won the election, the Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, told BBC Radio 4:
I don’t think that’s right, I think the Brexit party got about 35% of the vote and the strongly remain parties got about 40% of the vote. So either way you look at it, the Brexit party has got nothing like the 17 million they had before. The point is let’s just try and rule out the kind of terrifying vision for this country of no deal, that literally should go.
UK: Labour's Burgon says general election would be 'very different'
The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, has defended Labour’s strategy in the European elections despite admitting “it was never going to work”.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:
I think the message of trying to bring people together who voted remain or leave is the right message.
It was never going to work in this kind of low-turnout EU election where the people most interested in this important issue of Brexit, whether it is to remain or leave, came out to vote. A general election would be very different.
UK: election results 'hard to stomach' for Conservative party, says Jeremy Hunt
Spain: a great night for the socialists
Pedro Sánchez’s face said it all last night, writes Sam Jones in Madrid.
The socialist leader and acting prime minister was beaming as it became clear that his party had scored an emphatic win and built on its success in last month’s general election.
His PSOE took 20 seats and 32.8% of the vote – well up on the 29% it won in the national poll at the end of April.
“The PSOE, after the results on 28 April, has been confirmed as the biggest political force by far in Spain’s political system,” Sánchez said.
The conservative People’s party (PP) came second, with 12 seats and 20.1% of the vote, followed by the centre-right Citizens party with seven seats and 12.2%, and the leftwing, anti-austerity Unidas-Podemos coalition with six seats and 10% of the vote.
The far-right Vox party, which picked up 24 seats in the general election, finished fifth with three seats and 6.2% of the vote.
Spain’s electoral “super Sunday” also saw some upsets in regional and municipal elections. Madrid’s progressive mayor, Manuela Carmena, won the most votes but looks set to lose power as the PP, Citizens and Vox take control of the city council.
Predictions that the leftwing parties would experience a surge in the Madrid region and reclaim the autonomous government for the first time in 24 years also proved wide of the mark as the PP held on to its fiefdom.
However, the results will only serve to strengthen the PSOE as it considers its options for governing. They will also increase the pressure on Citizens to drop their veto on working with Sánchez.
Sunday also proved a dramatic night in Catalonia, writes Stephen Burgen.
The focus has been less on the European polls than the municipal elections, above all in Barcelona where the race between the incumbent leftwinger Ada Colau and the pro-independence Ernest Maragall of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) was neck and neck until the last, when Maragall won by a handful of notes.
However, although he has the most votes, Maragall will need the support of either Colau’s Barcelona en Comú or the socialists to govern, and it remains to be seen if their support will be forthcoming.
A visibly upset Colau accepted Maragall’s victory, saying: “Barcelona has voted for a leftwing, progressive government. It’s up to Maragall now to see if he can deliver that.”
Meanwhile, both the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, in self-imposed exile in Belgium, and the former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, currently on trial for his part in the illegal unilateral declaration of independence in 2017, were both elected to the European parliament.
Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party secured few votes in Catalonia’s major towns, especially Barcelona and Tarragona, losing out to either the ERC or the socialists. In order to collect his MEP credentials Puigdemont will have to go to Madrid but as soon as he sets foot on Spanish soil he faces arrest on the same charges as Junqueras.
UK: Farage targets general election success for Brexit party
The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, has been speaking about his party’s success in the European elections, pledging to develop a general election manifesto and compete for seats in the UK parliament. On suggestions that remain parties outperformed the Brexit party on aggregate, he told the BBC:
If you go round the country, it’s about 52-48. We’re pretty much where we were three years ago. Things haven’t changed. People haven’t changed their minds. Actually, that referendum was won by a clear majority of 1.3 million. In a democracy, it’s the majority that wins. The problem we’ve got is that for democracy to really function properly, you need the loser’s consent and it’s pretty clear that the remain parties still don’t accept Brexit. These battles will go on.
On a no-deal Brexit, he said:
We couldn’t have been clearer. The next date is 31 October. That will become as big a day in people’s minds as 29 March. All I can say is this: if we don’t leave on 31 October, you can expect to see the Brexit party’s success last night continue into the general election.
The Brexit party leader also said he would meet the US president, Donald Trump, in private when he visits the UK next week.
Spain: Sánchez and Macron to hold dinner meeting to discuss results
Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was one of the big winners of the night and now holds considerable sway in the centre-left bloc. He will travel to Paris today to dine with Emmanuel Macron to analyse the election results and discuss the allocation of posts. This could be the start of Spain’s push to raise its profile and have a greater in European matters.
France: Parties of Le Pen and Macron to have the same number of seats – for now
Official overall results Monday from France’s European voting show the parties were so close that they will both have 23 seats in the European Union legislature.
However, Marine Le Pen’s nationalist, anti-immigration National Rally party is set to gain one seat when Britain leaves the EU and the Parliament reapportions its seats.
President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-EU Republic on the Move party would stay at 23 seats.
Le Pen’s party had 5.3 million votes overall, compared with 5.1 million for Macron’s party, according to results from the interior ministry.
France’s Green party will have 13 seats after placing a surprisingly strong third, followed by eight seats for the conservative Republicans and six seats each for the far-left Defiant France and the Socialist group.
UK: 'We are hiding on the biggest issue of the day,' says Labour's David Lammy
The MP for Tottenham has called for Labour to hold a ballot of the party’s members or a special conference to settle its Brexit policy.
David Lammy told Radio 4:
Labour should get its act together. We tried to ride two horses. We fell flat on our faces, basically, with our face pressed against the pavement. That’s what happened. It is now clear that the electorate is now polarised, still, along leave and remain. That there is a surge of support for those who want no deal, and there is an absolute surge for those who want a confirmatory vote. And in this election, we have resuscitated the Liberal Democrats, we have handed votes to the Greens, and I have to say, very, very worryingly, we have facilitated Nigel Farage’s Brexit party because in the system of elections in the European elections, the largest parties always do well unless your policy is not clear.
We lacked clarity in this election. There were too many voters who were in tears because they wanted to vote Labour, had historically voted Labour, but felt that they had to lend their votes to the Liberal Democrats. And we now will need either an all-member ballot of our position on this subject, or a special conference. But we simply cannot go on with this mealy mouthed approach to a confirmatory vote and a situation in which the leader says one thing, once pushed, and then his spokesman on these issues issues some sort of retraction. It simply cannot go on like that. It’s too important.
We are hiding on the biggest issue of the day. In this election we put out poor literature, it was badly financed on the Labour side, we were cutting off the knees of some of our candidates. Our activists did not want to come out for us. We had Labour members who did not feel able to vote Labour. It was shocking. It was the worst that I’ve seen in my 20 years in politics. We have to get a grip.
Italy: League ahead
In Italy, the latest results put the League at 34.4%, the Democratic party at 22.73% and the Five Star Movement at 17.05%.
Europe: election results in five graphs
With so many elements to pull together from the election, Politico has helpfully done a guide to what’s happened in five graphs:
- Turnout by country (Belgium is best at 89%, Slovakia is worst at 23% and the UK is in the lower half at 37%).
- Results with parliamentary numbers.
- Country-by-country seats.
- Eurosceptic performance (Hungary rates 62%; Ireland, Malta and Romania rate 0%).
- The leading parties in each country, grouped by their affiliation in the European parliament.
UK: Labour could 'win over country' by backing second referendum, says Campbell
Alastair Campbell is also up early tweeting his thoughts about the European elections. He writes that “facing both ways has proven to be a total disaster” for Labour, but the party could win over the country by backing a second referendum.
Europe: what the papers say about the results
France’s Le Monde draws on the big showing of Marine Le Pen’s party, who won the most seats, ahead of Emanuel Macron’s party. “The extreme right comes first in France, Italy and the UK,” is its headline. Le Figaro says: “Macron sets up duel with Le Pen.” The leftist Libération puts a different spin on the result. It carries a poster-style front page with a picture of the leader of the Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV) green list, Yannick Jadot, with the headline: “La croissance Verte,” or “The rise of the Greens.”
In Germany, where the Greens did well, the Suddeutsche Zeitung leads its e-paper with the headline: “Greens are second biggest party for the first time”.
In Spain, El País and ABC both feature a picture of People’s party leaders celebrating the centre right taking control of Madrid city hall from a leftwing grouping. The ABC’s headline says: “Spain says no to giving all power to Sanchismo,” in reference to the prime minister, Pedro Sanchez.
You can read the Guardian’s full take on what the European papers say below.
Euro holds steady in Asian markets
The fact that Europe’s pro-EU parties didn’t suffer a complete collapse at the polls has seen the euro hold firm in overnight trading in Asia. The single currency is sitting at $1.1211, near its highest levels for more than a week and a recovery from a two-year low of $1.11055 on Thursday.
UK: Tories come to terms with Brexit party success
It might be early on a bank holiday Monday in the UK, but the battle to claim last night’s results as a victory for remain or leave has started. Just before 6am, arch-Brexiteer John Redwood tweeted that the big Brexit party win “must be a wake up call to parliament”.
UK: Tories slump to lowest vote share since 1832
Here’s a graph (below) that will give those at Conservative party headquarters nightmares. The party has crashed to its lowest share of the vote in nearly 200 years.
Europe: centrist parties are the biggest losers
There are many, many threads you can pull out from these European elections, but I thought it would be useful to try to dissect the biggest trends.
The centre-left and centre-right blocks are the biggest losers. They will no longer hold a majority in parliament. The current projection from the European parliament is that, between them, those blocks will end up with a total of 329 seats out of 751.
The far right had modest gains overall, but did very well in Italy and France. In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League romped home, with 28 seats. Second was the socialist PD on 19 seats. In France Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party took 22 seats, ahead of Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance coalition with 21. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party took more than half the vote, winning 13 seats, more than three times that of the next party. Those who would group Nigel Farage’s Brexit party under the far-right banner point to his stunning 29-seat win in the UK.
The Greens have done well in Germany and in the UK. In Germany they took 21 seats, making them the second biggest party (after Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU coalition, which took 29 seats). In Britain, the Green party won seven seats.
So, working out how all those parties with widely diverse ideologies and policies will work together in the European parliament will be no mean feat. What it does tell us is that there are widely varying views across the continent and the old power-brokers are going to have to work with new people and parties.
UK: Ann Widdecombe wins seat for Brexit party
The former Tory party MP, Ann Widdecombe, has won a seat for the Brexit party in the South West of England. Widdecombe said:
It’s very clear … there was only ever one reason for voting for the Brexit party – and that is what the nation has done, big time. What this does is send a very clear message to Westminster – again – that if they don’t sort out leave, at the next general election both the big parties are going to face carnage. We shouldn’t even be having these elections. These elections are a clear demonstration of the farce that has enveloped Westminster. I want a clean Brexit and that is where we have to put our pressure.
UK: how do EU election results compare with 2017 general election?
The short answer is that the big parties seriously sank in this poll. As David Hughes from the Press Association points out, in the 2017 general election, the Conservatives and Labour between them took 82% of the vote. In these European elections, in England and Wales, they took just over a quarter of that (24%). If that doesn’t prompt some soul searching, nothing will.
UK: Knives, daggers and hammers – the UK papers' take on EU elections
You won’t be surprised to know that Nigel Farage is on the front pages of many of today’s UK papers.
The Guardian’s headline is: “Tories and Labour savaged as voters take revenge over Brexit”.
The Times has: “Farage surge sends main parties into meltdown”.
The Mail says: “Farage plunges dagger; knives out for Boris”.
The Telegraph leads on the Conservative party, with the headline: “Farage humiliates Tories in EU poll”.
The Express takes quite a cranky tone, with: “NOW give us the Brexit we voted for”.
You can see the Guardian’s full story on the papers below.
UK: London punishes Tories and Labour party
The Liberal Democrats have gone from zero to hero in the capital, winning three out of the seven seats. The Brexit party took two, the Greens one and Labour two (losing two). The Conservatives lost all of their three seats. But if you dig down into the results, there are some interesting figures. In Kensington and Chelsea, the Conservative party was relegated to fourth spot behind Labour.
Gibraltar: voters back remain
It’s probably not that surprising, but people living in Gibraltar seem overwhelmingly to have backed the Liberal Democrats. In Gibraltar (South West), 77% voted for the Lib Dems, with the Brexit party coming in a distant second on just 8%.
UK/Germany: Brexit party and CDU-CSU hold most party seats
There are many ways to look at the results of this European election – via country results, what they mean for the political groupings in the parliament, and how they feed into different ideologies (populist, green, liberal etc). But here’s something fairly stark. If you look at which parties now have the most seats in the parliament, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party and Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU coalition both look set to win 29 seats, giving them more seats than anyone else in parliament. The next biggest party is Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord on 28 seats.
UK: Ukip wiped out
For those interested in the fate of Ukip tonight, these elections were a disaster for the party. It lost all of its MEPs despite topping the voting figures in 2014. Much of that support has probably gone to the Brexit party, which came top of the polls in England and Wales, picking up 28 MEPs.
Ukip’s leader, Gerard Batten, lost his seat in London, which he had held since 2004. The party’s controversial YouTuber candidate Carl Benjamin, who was second on the party’s South West regional list, also failed to get elected. Benjamin was condemned during the campaign for comments he made about raping the Labour MP Jess Phillips.
UK: remain parties take highest number of votes
In case you missed this or are just logging on to this live blog, it’s worth looking at this graphic below, that shows, with 99% of the vote counted in the UK, remain parties have taken 40.4% of the vote, while hard Brexit parties have taken 34.9% and the Conservatives and Labour have taken 23.2% between them.
Europe: centre-left and centre-right blocks lose grip on parliament
With so many results coming in tonight, and so many parties and coalitions to get your head around, Reuters has published a useful overview:
Parties committed to strengthening the European Union held on to two-thirds of seats in the EU parliament, official projections from the bloc’s elections showed on Sunday, though far-right and nationalist opponents saw strong gains. France’s Emmanuel Macron, who has staked his presidency on persuading Europeans that the EU is the answer to the challenges of an uncertain, globalising world economy, took a personal hit when his centrist movement was edged into second place by Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, anti-Brussels National Rally. But Macron’s Renaissance, built on the ruins of centre-left and centre-right parties, added to gains for liberals at the EU level as turnout bounced sharply across the bloc. Along with a surge for the Greens, that meant four groups occupying the pro-EU middle ground lost under 20 seats, securing 505 seats out of 751, according to a projection by the European parliament. That may complicate some policymaking, as a two-party “grand coalition” of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D) no longer has a majority. The liberals, with over 100 seats, and Greens, with nearly 70, want a big say. But it also dents the hopes of Le Pen, the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and others who have been seeking to disrupt attempts to forge closer EU integration. Salvini called the elections a mandate for a shake-up in Brussels. But tensions among nationalists, who also include the Polish and Hungarian ruling parties and the new Brexit party of the British campaigner Nigel Farage, have limited their impact on policy. “The big thing is that the gains for the extremists were not very substantial,” Guntram Wolff, head of the Bruegel economics thinktank in Brussels, said. Luxembourg’s liberal prime minister, Xavier Bettel, tweeted: “Europe wins! Voter turnout very high and pro-European parties are strongest.”
Summary: Brexit party ascendant as Tories and Labour savaged
- The Brexit party looks certain to clinch victory in the European parliament elections for the UK as the two main parties suffered a voter backlash over their respective Brexit policies.
- Current state of the parties in UK: Brexit 28 seats (33.3%); Lib Dems 15 (20.9%); Labour 10 (14.6%); Green 7 (12.5%); Conservative 3 (8.8%); Plaid Cymru 1 (1%).
- The Tories appeared to be consigned to fifth place but the party chair, Brandon Lewis, downplayed the party’s showing, saying: “We knew this would be a difficult night.”
- Following criticism from Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, who said Labour should campaign to remain in the EU – this echoing an earlier warning from the deputy leader, Tom Watson – Jeremy Corbyn released a statement saying the Brexit issue would have to go back to the people, though he stopped short once again of explicitly supporting a second vote.
- Nigel Farage declared he would work with anybody to achieve Brexit, and demanded that his victorious party be part of the team negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.
- The Green party increased its number of MEPs in its most impressive European election to date, in step with growing support for environmentalist parties across the EU.
- Vince Cable, the outgoing Liberal Democrat leader, declared his party to be the “strongest voice of remain” after its surprisingly impressive performance.
- In London, the Lib Dems came top with three MEPs, Labour and the Brexit party each won two and the Greens picked up one seat . In 2014, Labour won four, the Tories two and the Greens and Ukip one each.
- Ukip has been wiped out across the country, with the party leader, Gerard Batten, losing his seat after a series of earlier resignations dented the party’s cohort in Brussels.
- In Wales, the Brexit party won two seats, with Labour and Plaid Cymru taking one each. In 2014 Labour, Ukip, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru each won a seat.
UK: 'We knew this would be a difficult night,' says Tory chair
England: Brexit party MEP denies he is a hypocrite for living in France
England: heated argument between Brexit party and Greens in Southampton
While Farage managed to avoid controversy for most of the night, slipping into the count through a backdoor, a row erupted between the Greens and Brexit Party members after the victory speeches had been made.
Tom Druitt, husband of newly-elected Green MEP for the region, Alexandra Phillips – and a Brighton Green councillor himself – stood on a chair in the Civic Centre and condemned Farage for making “this country an international joke.”
As members of the press crowded around Farage, Druitt shouted: “We are where we are in this country because of this man ... He is the one that you’re obsessed with day-in-day-out.”
During Druitt’s impromptu speech, members of Farage’s entourage shouted, “You lost, get over it” and called the Green party politician “rude”.
Jan Doerfel, a Staines Green Councillor then waded into the argument. He declared: “We want to see how many people of the Brexit Party are actually going to turn up to Brussels and do work and represent people of the UK and the EU.”
He added: “There’s one thing to do something for Brexit and there’s another to do something for your salary.”
Incidentally, there were two Alexandra Phillips’ elected tonight in Southampton, one from the Greens and another from the Brexit party, leading to some confusion on social media.
UK: Labour 'suffered for trying to unite' the country, says Gardiner
Shortly after Jeremy Corbyn hinted at supporting a second referendum, the shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, urged the government to call a general election after the Conservatives select a new leader.
He earlier claimed Labour had suffered for trying to bring the country together.
European parliament: projected results
Here is a look at the projected overall results, from @EuropeElects. Here are some of the headlines to take note of:
The Greens/EFA block has had a big boost. It looks set to increase its seats by 50% in the parliament from 50 in 2014 to 75 seats.
The Centre-left: S&D grouping has been significantly weakened. It is projected to lose 50 seats in the 751-seat chamber, going from 191 in 2014, to a projected 141 now.
The Centre-right: EPP (European Peoples Party) are also big losers, projected to shrink from 221 seats down to 165.
The Liberals: ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, including Emanuel Macron’s Renaissance party) are projected to increase their presence in the parliament from 67 to 115 sets.
The Rightwing: ENF/EAPN (this is right-wing populist alliance block, including Italy’s Matteo Salvini plus MEPs from other rightwing parties, like Alternative for Germany , Finns Party, and the Danish People’s Party) look set to hold 74 seats, up from 37.
The stated goal of the group is to challenge the power of the governing bloc, including a push for tighter immigration and border policies.
You can see a helpful breakdown of how the parties are projected to sit below and here and also on the Guardian’s live results here.
UK: 'overwhelming' case for a people's vote, says Green party
Siân Berry, the co-leader of the Green party in England and Wales, has said “the people have spoken” and voters should be given the chance to choose between remaining in the EU and leaving under a deal agreed with the EU.
Giving the people the final say over the country’s direction is now clearly the only way forward, the way to draw a line under the Brexit chaos. The vote tally for clearly remain parties is higher than for that of the Brexit party and Ukip. The people have spoken.
We are in a state of political crisis in the UK. But to understand that we need to look at the causes of the anger and frustration in leave-majority areas, Westminster austerity, our archaic Victorian voting system, and the concentration of power in London.
We have to be tough on Brexit and the causes of Brexit. And we have to turn our focus to addressing the climate emergency, our social crisis that sees millions insecure and uncertain they’ll be able to feed and house themselves, the damage done to the NHS by privatisation and underfunding and the many problems in our education system.
UK: Verhofstadt congratulates Lib Dems
Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, has welcomed the new delegation of Lib Dem MEPs, saying that together they will fight for a better Europe.
UK: remain parties on 40.4% collectively, says Europe Elects
UK: Brexit issue will have to go back to the people, says Corbyn
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has released a statement suggesting once again that the party may shift towards supporting a second referendum:
After three years of Tory failure to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole country, these elections became a proxy second referendum.
With the Conservatives disintegrating and unable to govern, and parliament deadlocked, this issue will have to go back to the people, whether through a general election or a public vote. Labour will bring our divided country together so we can end austerity and tackle inequality.
Over the coming days we will have conversations across our party and movement, and reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide. We will not let the continuing chaos in the Conservative party push our country into a no-deal exit from the EU. Parliament can and will prevent such a damaging outcome for jobs and industry in the UK.
With results declared from all nine regions of England and in Wales, Labour came third behind the Lib Dems in second.
As early results came in, pressure began to mount on the leadership to depart from what has been criticised as an ambiguous position on Brexit.
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said the party cannot go into a general election without a clear position on a second referendum and a special conference may be needed to decide a Brexit policy.
Earlier, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, called for Labour to change its position, saying: “We must have a second referendum.”
Italy: Salvini declares 'new Europe is born'
With Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League party winning most of the votes, it will strengthen his grip on government, particularly as its coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, was beaten by a resurgent centre-left Democratic party.
“A new Europe is born. I am proud that the League is participating in this new European renaissance,” he said in Milan, adding: “I ask for an acceleration on the government programme.”
Salvini tweeted a photo of himself grinning and holding a sign saying “top party in Italy” while standing in front of a bookshelf featuring, among other things, a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.
The result for the League confirmed the party’s stellar rise since forming a government in June last year. In 2014, it won just 6% of the vote in European elections.
Now questions will be asked about whether Salvini might call snap elections, something he has played down. “As far as I’m concerned, if the League wins nothing changes in Italy, everything will change in Europe, starting from tomorrow,” he said earlier on Sunday.
UK: I would work with anybody to achieve Brexit, says Farage
Nigel Farage has reiterated his demand for the Brexit party to be part of the team negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.
“At the end of the day it’s about what voters want. I think either the Conservatives and Labour parties take us towards Brexit or they are going to have to be replaced, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“This is the vote that says put no-deal Brexit back on the table, make it part of our negotiations because without that we have no chance of getting a sensible, fair trade deal and I want us, as the Brexit party, to be engaged in that.”
Saying that he would be willing to work with Boris Johnson as prime minister, he added: “I will work with anybody if it’s to achieve Brexit, I would work with anybody.”
Meanwhile, the former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe – elected as an MEP for the Brexit party – has warned the two-party system could end if the UK does not leave the EU.
“I am not yet ready to say this is definitely the end but if they don’t deliver Brexit I genuinely believe it is the end,” she said. “I am not fearful now that Brexit won’t happen; I would have been a couple of months ago, particularly when Mrs May was offering every last concession to Labour.
“But that abject surrender failed and so I am now quite confident that after the message that has gone out tonight that should at last focus minds in Westminster.”
UK: first-past-the-post voting system is broken, says Lucas
The Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, has declared the first-past-the-post voting system as broken.
Describing an electoral system which at general elections favours the larger parties at the expense of smaller groups, Lucas said: “I think one of the lessons of tonight’s results overall is that the first-past-the-post voting system is broken,” she told reporters in Southampton. The EU elections use a proportional method to choose MEPs.
On the Green surge across Europe, Lucas said events such as the school strikes, Extinction Rebellion protests and calls from Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough have “reached people that haven’t in the past been necessarily all that engaged with the climate issue”.
Lucas then told Sky News: “The clear indication is those parties that made it their business to say our future is better off in the EU did better than the hard Brexiteers. Let’s make sure that is what people hear loud and clear.”
Italy: League wins overwhelmingly in north-west of country
As we’ve been reporting, Italy’s governing far-right League party has done very well in these elections.
We are now getting some detailed projections from different regions, including the north-west, where the party has strong support. @EuropeElects is projecting it will win 41% of votes in the north-west region.
UK: Lib Dems the strongest voice of remain, says Cable
Vince Cable, the outgoing Liberal Democrat leader, has declared the party is the “strongest voice of remain” after its surprisingly impressive performance tonight.
UK: this is our worst ever election result, says Tory MEP
Daniel Hannan, one of the the Conservatives’ most prominent MEPs, has told the BBC that Brexit will polarise a large section of the electorate until the UK leaves the European Union.
I think we’ve done a lot worse than we did in 1832, I think in terms of national vote share we ... this is our worst ever result. You don’t need to be a psephologist to understand why, you don’t need all those clever experts and gizmos you’ve got in the studio ... we voted to leave and we haven’t left yet, it’s that simple and as long as that is the case you will have a chunk of the electorate that is polarised and is effectively going to vote for the single-issue pro- and anti-Brexit parties.
Turnout: figures vary widely across Europe
Good morning, this is Alison Rourke taking over Jennifer Rankin’s part of the live blog on the European elections.
Jennifer might have left the blog but has just tweeted a very handy look at turnout across the continent.
Of all EU citizens eligible to vote, 50.5% did so. It’s the highest turnout in 20 years, according to the European parliament (@Europarl_EU).
Belgium has the highest turnout with 89%. Slovakia has the lowest with 22.7%. The biggest increases were in Spain, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
The UK’s turnout was 37%.
UK: Brexit party has almost three times as many seats as Tories
The state of the parties after 10 constituency results out of 12 in the UK, with Scotland and Northern Ireland still to report.
The Brexit party has won in every region except London, while the Lib Dems recorded their best ever EU election result, and the Greens registered their most successful showing.
Brexit party: 28 seats (+28), 5,244,893, 31.6% (+31.6)
Lib Dems: 15 seats (+14), 3,366,673, 20.3% (+13.4)
Labour: 10 seats (-8), 2,346,441, 14.1% (-11.3)
Greens: seven seats (+4), 2,010,328, 12.1% (+4.2)
Conservatives: three seats (-15), 1,510,874, 10.6% (-14.9)
Plaid Cymru: one seat (-), 163,928, 1.0% (+0.3)
SNP: no seats (-), 590,947, 3.6% (+1.1)
Change UK: no seats (-), 571,716, 3.4% (+3.4)
Ukip: no seats (-23), 549,159, 3.3% (-24.2)
UK: more Tory MPs could split if Boris Johnson becomes leader, says Heidi Allen
The Change UK leader Heidi Allen, has said that if Boris Johnson or another no-deal Brexiter becomes Tory leader there could be more Conservative MPs who break away from her former party.
She said there were also many angry Labour MPs who wanted their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to back another referendum. “If the Tories elect Boris Johnson, or someone who wants no deal, that could see some moderate remain Tories break away,” she said.
“Labour have had an absolute pasting tonight, there are many frustrated Labour MPs angry Jeremy Corbyn is not unequivocally backing a second referendum.”
She said there were no candidates in the race that would make her return to the Tory party, and added: “The party has fundamentally changed now.”
Meanwhile, Annunziata Rees-Mogg has said her brother Jacob would be “devastated” after the Brexit party won three European seats in the east Midlands.
“I have no doubt he will be devastated at what has been done to his own party, the Conservatives,” she said. “Theresa May has betrayed the British people. She made a lot of promises she didn’t stick to and unfortunately the whole party is paying for it. We are the party that will be listening to them.”
Summary: Greens, Liberals and far-right gains end traditional party duopoly
Results have flooded in and we have a partial, but accurate picture of what has happened in the 2019 European parliament elections across all 28 member states.
Here is a summary of where things stand at 00.35 BST:
- Turnout across the EU has hit a 20-year record high of 50.5%. The last time voter participation was above 50% was in 1994 (when it was 56.6%). Some of the biggest increases in turnout were in Hungary, Romania and Spain.
- The grand coalition of left and right is set to lose its 40-year majority: the European People’s party and the Socialists & Democrats are on course to share 44% of the total seats. The centre right did well in Austria, while socialists topped the list in Spain, Portugal and – to some surprise – the Netherlands.
- Liberals were among the big winners of the night, thanks to Emmanuel Macron. The French president’s Renaissance MEPs will join forces with other liberal MEPs to create a new centrist group that is forecast to have 105 seats, up from the 67 won in 2014. But national results are a setback for Macron, as partial results show he has come second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.
- The Greens are predicted to win 67 seats in the European parliament, their best-ever result. Performance has been strong in Germany, where the Greens have almost doubled their 2014 result to leapfrog the SPD into second place with 22%.
- The far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group is on course to win 57 seats, up from 30 a few years ago, a surge driven partly by the stunning success of Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy. That result is not the breakthrough of more than 70 seats many had forecast – although we still await final results and the makeup of the group. There has been speculation that Hungary’s Fidesz party, which won an easy victory in these elections, could quit the European People’s party for the far right.
England: Brexit party wins in north-west as Labour vote falls
The Brexit party won three out of eight seats in the region, getting a resounding 31.2% of the vote, as Labour and the Conservatives suffered significant losses.
The Tories lost both of their seats as its vote share slid by 12.5%. Labour lost one of its three seats as its share fell by 12%. The pattern elsewhere in the country was replicated in the north-west, with the Lib Dems (two seats) and Greens (one seat) hoovering up pro-EU votes from the two main parties. Tommy Robinson, meanwhile, got just 2.2% of the vote –meaning he loses his £5,000 deposit.
One of the newly-elected Brexit party MEPs is David Bull, the TV doctor, who announced to huge cheers in the count hall: “We took their anger and turned it into hope”. He added: “We must leave the EU wit ha clean break on 31 October or before... The Brexit Party is here to stay. It’s a new force in British politics. We are ready.”
England: Farage demands negotiating role as Brexit party takes south-east
Nigel Farage has warned that if the UK does not leave the EU by the end of October, then the main parties will continue to suffer losses at the ballot boxes.
“Never before in British politics has a new party, launched six weeks ago, topped the polls in a national election,” he said in Southampton after retaining his seat, albeit for a different party.
“The reason of course is very obvious: we voted to leave in a referendum, we were supposed to do so on March 29 and we haven’t. There’s a huge message here, the Labour and Conservative parties can learn a massive lesson tonight, though I don’t suppose they actually will.”
He declared that his MEPs, made up of businesspeople, wanted to be part of the government’s negotiating team. “We want to take responsibility,” Farage said. “I hope the government is listening.”
“If we don’t leave on October 31st then the scores you have seen for the Brexit party today will be repeated in a general election, and we are getting ready for it.”
Meanwhile, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, one of the most prominent Brexit campaigners, has kept his seat, the sole Conservative to do so in the region.
UK: Labour wins just seven council areas, Tories get none
UK: millions of people support no deal, says Brexit party chairman
The Brexit party chairman and newly elected MEP, Richard Tice, said the success of his party showed millions of people wanted a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking to the Press Association after the eastern England results, he said: “We are incredibly humbled by the fact that millions of others across the country are backing our simple message to restore trust in democracy, and are sending a clear message back to Westminster that we want a WTO Brexit.”
He went on to declare that the Brexit party’s MEPs should play a significant role in the negotiations with the EU, and argued that manifestos had been “completely discredited”.
We need strong, bold leadership and we need the Brexit party MEPs to play a significant role in the negotiations. What’s so important now is we come in and help the government quickly because it is in paralysis and is navel gazing about who should be the next leader.
We have already seen in British politics manifestos have become completely discredited. We will put forward some policies. We are going to reach out to our registered supporters and have a conversation with the country to make sure that we know exactly the main things that are concerning people.
We are going to trust the people. Then when we are ready for a general election we’ll have experienced, successful candidates from all walks of life. We didn’t have a manifesto in this election but stood on the confidence in our candidates and a clear, simple message.
UK: Tory MEP blames defeat on divisions within party
Despite an abysmal evening for the Conservatives, the current south-east MEP, Nirj Deva, has said he was “not at all” concerned by the Brexit party as it was “a one issue party”.
“They have no national programme, they have no national ethos,” he said. “What are they going to do on the NHS? What is their policy on transport? What is their policy on social housing or the green belt?
“It’s a single issue party, so once they’ve busted themselves on this single issue what is left?”
Deva blamed the Brexit division within his party for its overwhelming defeat tonight, adding: “This was not a European election, it was a second referendum.”
Summary: Brexit party in front, Lib Dems surge, Tories head for fifth, Labour slumps, Greens gain
- The Brexit party is on course to win in the 11 constituency regions of Great Britain, with eight results in so far as the two main parties suffer a voter backlash over their respective Brexit policies.
- Current state of the parties in Great Britain: Brexit party 21 seats (32% of the vote); Lib Dems 10 (20%); Labour seven (14%); Green five (12%); Conservatives two (9%); Plaid Cymru one.
- Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, has criticised Labour’s election strategy for not having a clear enough message and has said the party should campaign to remain in the EU, echoing an earlier warning from the deputy leader, Tom Watson.
- Alastair Campbell and Lord Heseltine, Labour and Tory grandees respectively, both voted for the pro-EU Lib Dems, who appear to be tonight’s surprise package, surging across England.
- The Tories are being beaten into a fifth place, with the scale of their defeat demonstrating the challenges facing Theresa May’s successor. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary and leadership hopeful, said it was a “painful result” and there was an “existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done”.
- The Green party has increased its number of MEPs in its most impressive European election to date, in step with growing support for environmentalist parties across the EU.
- In London, the Lib Dems came top with three MEPs, Labour and the Brexit party each won two and the Greens picked up one seat In 2014 Labour won four, the Tories two and the Greens and Ukip one each.
- Ukip has been wiped out across the country, with the party leader, Gerard Batten, losing his seat after a series of earlier resignations dented the party’s cohort in Brussels.
- In Wales the Brexit party won two seats, with Labour and Plaid Cymru each taking a seat. In 2014 Labour, Ukip, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru each won a seat.
- The far-right activist Tommy Robinson, who was running as an independent candidate in the north-west, accepted defeat and has left the count in Sunderland.
Slovakia: pro-EU coalition tops poll
A pro-EU coalition linked to the president-elect, Zuzana Čaputová, has won tin Slovakia.
The coalition, Progressive Slovakia/Together, received 20.1 % of the vote, gaining four seats in the European legislature, according to final results released by the Slovak statistics office.
Čaputová, a lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner, is due to take office in June, after being elected as Slovakia’s first female president in March.
The far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia finished third with 12.1 %, winning two seats. But Slovakia’s local ally of France’s far-right National Rally party did not win a seat.
Hungary: Orbán wants to 'change Europe' after big win
Viktor Orbán’s far-right, anti-immigration Fidesz party has won big at home, with 52% of the vote and 13 of Hungary’s 21 seats, but it may find itself more isolated than it had hoped in the new European parliament. Some far-right parties showed modest gains, but others have done worse than expected.
However, Orbán claimed the elections showed a wave of nationalist gains. He spoke to a crowd outside “the Whale”, the Fidesz campaign headquarters in Budapest on the Danube. “We are small but we want to change Europe,” he said, describing the elections as “the beginning of a new era against migration”.
Inside the campaign HQ, Hungary’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, said “the status quo is over” in the European parliament:
Until now, after European elections, the puzzle was quite simple, the EPP and the socialists came together, counted the votes and there was a comfortable majority … Now nobody is able to say what the final composition of the majority will look like.
England: embarrassing defeats for May and Corbyn
There were embarrassing defeats for both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May in their respective constituencies of Islington and Maidenhead.
The Lib Dems took Islington, where the other MP is the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, with 27.5% of the vote, an 18.6 percentage point increase, squeezing ahead of Labour, whose vote plummeted by 21.2 percentage points to 26.3%. It was one of many London boroughs where Vince Cable’s party capitalised on voters’ dismay at Corbyn’s refusal to unequivocally offer a second referendum.
The Lib Dems also came close to first place in Windsor and Maidenhead as its vote surged by 23.1 percentage points to 31.5%, as the Conservatives’ plummeted by 26.3 to 13.5. But the Brexit party squeezed into first place in the outgoing Tory leader’s constituency with 32.7% of the vote.
UK: Labour's deputy leader asks members to help create new Brexit policy
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has tweeted a link to a survey on his website, asking members how the party should agree a new Brexit policy.
Spain: socialists win decisive victory
With more than 98% of the vote counted, Spain’s ruling socialist party (PSOE) has won an emphatic victory, taking 20 seats and 32.8% of the vote less than a month after finishing first in the general election.
The party’s traditional rival, the conservative People’s party (PP) came second, with 12 seats and 20.1% of the vote, followed by the centre-right Citizens party with seven seats and 12.2%, and the leftwing, anti-austerity Unidas Podemos coalition with six seats and 10% of the vote.
The far-right Vox party, which picked up 24 seats in the general election, finished fifth with three seats and 6.2% of the vote.
Republics Now – an alliance of regional pro-independence parties – took three seats and 5.7% of the vote. The group is led by the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who is on trial in Madrid over his alleged role in the failed regional independence bid in autumn 2017.
Junqueras’s former boss, the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, also won a seat in the European parliament after his Together for Catalonia group took two seats and 4.6% of the vote. Puidgemont lives in Brussels after fleeing Spain to avoid arrest over his part in the push for Catalan secession.
It remains to be seen how Junqueras and Puigdemont might take up their seats.
Spain’s electoral super-Sunday also saw regional and local elections held across the country. Madrid’s incumbent mayor, Manuela Carmena, appeared to be on the verge of losing by a single seat, while Barcelona’s current mayor, Ada Colau, was locked in a tight race with her pro-independence rival, Ernest Maragall.
Sunday’s victory will strengthen the hand of Pedro Sánchez as the PSOE leader weighs up his options for governing after failing to win a majority in the general elections.
The party’s European result is up on the 29% it won nationally last month, while Vox’s is down. The far-right group won 10.3% of the vote in the general election – 4.1 percentage points more than in the European poll.
England: Lord Heseltine voted for Lib Dems
Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, has confirmed he voted for the Liberal Democrats, after he was suspended by the Tories earlier this month for declaring he would not vote for the party.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Heseltine said: “I did what I believed to be in the national interest, and it fulfilled a warning that I gave to my party many months ago that the Lib Dems would take a significant number of Conservative votes, which they have done.”
England: Brexit party wins Yorkshire and Humber with 36% of vote
That’s three MEPs for the Brexit party, one each for the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens, who return Magid Magid, the former lord mayor of Sheffield.
England: Tommy Robinson accepts defeat
We’ve not yet had the official results from the north-west, but Tommy Robinson has already declared defeat and left the building. The anti-Islam activist left the count in Manchester minutes after it emerged he had secured just 2% of the city’s vote, with expectations that he will do only marginally better when the north-west vote is declared in the next hour.
While journalists were busy reporting on the Manchester result, Robinson slunk away and handed in his pass on the way out. “It doesn’t look like he’s coming back,” said one election official.
In a video to his 45,000 followers on Telegram, the encrypted app where he coordinated his campaign, Robinson said he was “gutted”.
“My wife’s up here so I’m gonna get out of here, go see my wife,” he said before thanking supporters for “keeping me alive, because I genuinely didn’t think I’d be alive by the end of it, with what was happening” – a reference, presumably, to the two milkshakes thrown at him and the violence that erupted in Oldham last weekend.
UK: Brexit party wins both West Midlands and Wales
Brussels: race for top EU jobs under way as big parties lose
The results are only half complete, but in Brussels the big political groups are already jostling for position in the race for the EU’s top jobs.
The centre-right European People’s party and the Socialists & Democrats have lost seats. Both groups – transnational blocs of parties – have a lead candidate who is seeking to lead the next European commission.
With provisional results showing the EPP in first place, with 178 seats, the German MEP leader Manfred Weber has made his claim for the commission presidency.
He says he wants to “start a commission of the people” and called on socialists, liberals and greens to work with him.
The S&D candidate Frans Timmermans, who is also the commission’s first vice-president, says he wants to build a “progressive coalition” with the liberals and greens.
Once again my offer is on the table: let’s sit together the progressive forces in the parliament that will prepare Europe for the years to come.
Margrethe Vestager, the Liberal candidate, who is also the EU competition commissioner, says she wants to break the political monopoly of the old centre-right and centre-left.
The monopoly of power is broken.
England: Alistair Campbell voted Liberal Democrat
“I voted Liberal Democrat,” said Alistair Campbell, Labour party veteran and Tony Blair’s former press secretary, when asked how he voted on the BBC.
I didn’t vote Labour for the first time in my life and it was a very, very strange feeling. But I just felt on this issue, at this time, the Labour party has let its own supporters down, it has let its own members down and I think it has let the country down in the way that it has failed properly to devise a policy that the country and the party could unite around, and the way that it failed to campaign.
He tweeted earlier: “I’m not a Lib Dem. I’m Labour and I hope that in voting as I did I will help the Labour Party see sense and do right thing for the country.
“If Islington has gone Lib Dem then maybe even Jeremy Corbyn might realise the strategy pursued by the posh boy revolutionaries is failing badly and putting his and UKLabour future at risk.”
Scotland: SNP lead, Labour trail in fifth amid high turnout as counting continues
The Scottish National party has carved out a healthy and substantial lead after the first 14 Scottish councils released their results, taking 38.1% of the vote – nearly 10 points higher than their 28.9% total in 2014.
SNP officials still believe they will win two seats, rather than the three projected by some polls, but the early results for Labour are dire – far below the 13 to 20% forecast by the polls.
Labour is currently trailing in fifth on 9.1%, and senior party sources now fear they will lose all two of their current seats – and are on course for their worst election result in modern times.
The Brexit party is in second, on 15.9%, with the Lib Dems up in third on 13.1% after their support was boosted by votes from Orkney and Shetland, a traditional heartland. The Tories are in fourth on 11.9%.
Councils across Scotland are reporting noticeably higher than normal turnout for a European election, with close to 50% of voters casting ballots in authorities including Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire and Stirling.
Shortly before 10pm, it emerged the overall turnout for Scotland was just under 40%, at 39.7% - 6.2 points higher than in 2014
A series of opinion polls had forecast the SNP was on course to win three of Scotland’s six European parliament seats, with Labour expected to win one and the Brexit party taking another. That would leave the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Scottish Greens scrapping for the sixth seats.
However, Britain Elects has forecast the SNP would only take two seats – the same as it currently has. And there are sombre faces amongst SNP officials at Edinburgh city chambers, where the council is hosting the declaration of the Scottish results.
Total turnout in 2014 was 33.5% but in East Renfrewshire the vote was up 5.3 points to 48.4%, and up by 8.6 points to 46.7% in Stirling. In East Dunbartonshire, it reached 47.1%, up 8.7 points. In Edinburgh, the turnout hit 50.2%, up 8.6 points on 2014.
A Scottish Green party activist blogging on Twitter as @BallotBoxScot, Alan Faulds, who happens to be sixth on the Greens list for this election, calculated that turnout across the country was up by 6 points at least after the first 14 councils announced their turnout figures.
The final Scottish result is not due until late morning tomorrow because the Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, won’t carry out its count until tomorrow as it observes the sabbatarian injunction against working on a Sunday.
But with the results from 31 of Scotland’s 32 councils due to be declared tonight, a very firm picture of the final result will emerge. In 2014, only 7,705 of the Western Isles’ voters turned out – just under 0.6% of the Scotland total.
England: Lib Dems win London, Tories lose both their seats
The results for London are in.
- Liberal Democrats: 3 (+3) – vote share 27% (+20%)
Irina Von Wiese, Dinesh Dhamija, Luisa Porritt
- Labour 2 (-2) / 24% (-13%)
Claude Moraes, Sebastian Dance
- Brexit party 2 (+2) / 18% (+18%)
Benyamin Habib, Lance Forman
- Green 1 (-) / 12% (+4%)
- Conservative 0 (-2) / 8% (-15%)
- Change UK 0 (-) / 5% (+5)
- Ukip 0 (-1) / 2% (-15%)
England: Anti-Brexit parties make gains in East of England
Those East of England results are obviously good for the Brexit party but previously Ukip and the Conservatives held three each, and Labour held one, whereas this time three seats have gone to anti-Brexit parties.
Turnout: highest voter participation in 20 years
Turnout across all 28 member states, including the UK, has risen to 50.5%, the European parliament has announced.
This is 8 percentage points higher than in 2014.
The 2019 turnout is the highest of the last 20 years and the first significant increase in turnout since elections began in 1979.
The parliament’s chief spokesman, Jaume Duch Guillot, said:
The European citizens realised that the European Union is part of their everyday reality and future. This time they voted.
England: Lib Dems surging in London
The Lib Dems “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan is paying dividends in London. In Kensington and Chelsea its vote has gone up almost 30%, putting it in first place.
It has also had significant increases in Islington and Haringey, leapfrogging Labour into first place in both boroughs.
England: East of England declares
The Brexit party has won three more seats while the Greens, Lib Dems and Conservatives have their first seat(s) of the night:
UK: Greens gains indicative of continent-wide call for action, says Lucas
The Green party has made gains in the south-east, largely beating Labour into fourth place so far, with the Brexit party victorious and the Liberal Democrats in fourth – leaving the governing Conservative party in fifth place.
Speaking at Southampton Civic Centre, Caroline Lucas the MP for Brighton and Hove, described the results as “incredible” and indicative of “a Green wave across Europe.” She added that it was clear voters wanted “action not just inside the EU” but also on the “climate”.
In Brighton, the Greens topped the poll with 32,594 of votes, while the Lib Dems came second with 20,337 votes.
According to the preliminary results, the Greens/EFA group will significantly increase the number of MEP’s in their grouping and are on course to hold more seats than ever before in the European parliament.
Ska Keller, the president of the Greens/EFA group and leading candidate for the European Green Party, said:
The Green Wave has swept across Europe. We want to thank everyone who has voted for change and climate action. Green parties have exceeded expectations in countries such as Germany, France, Ireland, Denmark, Finland and Austria and will play an ever more important role in shaping the political debate across Europe over the coming years. This trust given to us by voters is both a task and a responsibility to put green polices into action.
Hungary: Viktor Orbán's party wins again
Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party has won 13 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the European parliament, one seat more than in the 2014 vote.
As Reuters reports, with 99.9% of the votes counted on Sunday evening, the former Socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany’s Democratic Coalition had won four seats and the liberal Momentum Movement captured two seats.
The left-wing/green coalition of the Socialist and Dialogue parties took one seat. The far-right Jobbik party also got one seat, worse than expected.
Voter turnout was above 43%, the highest for a European parliament election since Hungary joined in 2004.
England: Emily Thornberry criticises Labour election strategy
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, has criticised Labour’s election strategy.
Appearing on the BBC’s election coverage, she said:
We went into an election where the most important issue was: what was our view on leaving the EU? And we were not clear about it. We were not clear on the one single thing that people wanted to hear.
We should have said quite simply that any deal that comes out of this government should be put to a confirmatory referendum, and that remain should be on the ballot paper, and that Labour would campaign to remain. I think that we will, after these elections, need to look very carefully at why it is that we got this result.
England: Lib Dems cheerful, Tommy Robinson cries foul
The Liberal Democracts are certainly the cheeriest party in Manchester. They think they’ve won two seats of the eight seats in the north-west, with Labour and the Brexit party are thought to have got two apiece. The Tories are believed to have lost a seat, leaving them with one, while the Greens are thought to have taken the final seat.
“It looks like it’s been a very good night,” said Jackie Pearcey, the Lib Dems’ north-west chair, who was a councillor in Manchester for 21 years, adding that the party now had more members than she could recall in the party’s history. “In the north-west it shows that we’re back and we’re on the road to recovery.”
The Brexit party candidates – former Revolutionary Communist member Claire Fox, dentist Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, and TV doctor David Bull – looked very pleased but gave little away when asked for their predictions.
Meanwhile,Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, has just arrived – late – at the north-west count and immediately launched into a turbo-charged rant to journalists about how he had not won because he is banned from most social media platforms. (Note: The results aren’t in yet).
“Trump won his campaign on social media; Brexit was won on social media. I’m banned from social media,” he said. “So my ability to fight a fair campaign was gone. It was orchestrated and organised by the government.”
The anti-Islam activist then stormed off to a meeting with the returning officer, refusing to speak to a Channel 4 News journalist who he told: “Channel 4 News? Fake news - you’re the worst!”
Yaxley-Lennon’s late arrival actually held up the declaration of the result for Manchester - all other candidates were in a meeting with the returning officer when he eventually turned up.
England: Brexit party polls over 50% in two areas
The Brexit party has taken over 50% in two areas where the Tories have suffered a double-digit fall in percentage points.
Italy: far-right hails big win
Italy’s governing far-right League party has applauded a breakthrough that has taken it to the top of the European parliament polls.
Exit polls show that the League has won between 27% and 31% of the vote, up from 6.16% in 2014.
“This is a historic result … for the first time the League is the first party in Italy,” Riccardo Molinari, the party’s lower house whip, told Ansa news agency.
Matteo Salvini, the party’s leader and deputy prime minister, wrote on his Facebook page. “One word: thank you Italy.”
England: Labour win in Leicester as pro-Brexit voters spoil ballots with slogans
Labour have topped the poll in Leicester, which voted Remain in the referendum, replicating the party’s result in the 2014 election.
Voting for the main parties was: Labour 33,449, Brexit 11,467, Conservatives 5,270, Lib Dem 10,330, Green 6,503, Ukip 2,201, Change UK 1,609.
Chris Williams, an agent for the Green party in Leicester, has told the Guardian that he has seen scores of spoilt ballots, apparently forged by pro-Brexit voters.
Slogans such as ‘Brexit now’, ‘We need brexit’ and ‘We’ve already voted on this’ were scrawled next to Brexit, he said, but the electors neglected to vote for either Ukip or the Brexit party.
Williams had been checking the disputed ballots as part of his duties as an election agent, and also found one ballot which had ‘wank’ written in every single box apart from that of the Green party. The voter left a note saying ‘not wank’ for the environmentalist party which was deemed acceptable as a vote.
England and Wales: Brexit party dominating outside London so far
Apart from London, where Sutton (Lib Dems), Redbridge (Labour) and Harrow (Labour) have also announced results, only one area out of the 25 to have announced so far has had a party other than the Brexit party finish first. That is Bath and North East Somerset, where the Lib Dems got the largest share of the vote (35%) and Labour got just 5.4%.
UK: Brexit party set to win, Tories slump to 10% – BBC projection
As results around the country begin to come in, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is set to sweep to victory, with the Conservatives expected to win around 10% of the vote, according to a BBC projection.
The BBC has forecast that the Brexit Party will top the polls, with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats set to come second and the ruling Conservative party set to receive between 10 and 12% of the vote, down from 24% in 2014.
Ahead of the release of official results, Brexit party Nigel Farage said the group – formed less than two months ago, were on course for a big win tonight
“The intelligence I get is that the Brexit party is doing pretty well .. It looks like it’s going to be a big win for the Brexit Party,” Farage told reporters at the venue where vote tallies from across the south east region were being collated.
England: North-east declares
The north-east is the first region to declare:
Scotland: Labour party vote collapses in first four council areas to report
The Scottish Labour party vote has crashed in the first four Scottish council areas to report results, with the Scottish National party showing the jump in support predicted by the opinion polls. Many analysts had forecast that Scottish voters would desert Labour for firmly pro-remain parties such as the SNP, the Lib Dems or Greens.
Labour’s support in East Ayrshire fell by about 20 points, down to 12.9%, while in Renfrewshire it fell by 23 points to 13.2% and in East Dunbartonshire it was down 23 to 15.9%. That suggests Labour will only just hold on to one of its two MEPs.
The SNP’s vote rose by 7.7% in the Scottish Borders to 28.3% and 13 points in West Dunbartonshire, up to 45.4%.
Meanwhile, the Brexit party looked on course to supplant Ukip in Scotland by taking one seat, winning 18.9% in the Scottish Borders, chiefly at the expense of the Conservatives, and 16.4% in East Ayrshire.
England and Wales: Brexit party ahead in 13 of the first 14 areas to declare
The Brexit party came first in 13 of the first areas (not regions) to declare, with over 40% of the vote in five of those. The list is Corby (east Midlands), Folkestone & Hythe (south-east), Telford & Wrekin (West Midlands), Rugby (West Midlands), Southend (east of England), Sheffield (Yorkshire and the Humber), Newcastle upon Tyne (north-east), Durham (north-east), Wolverhampton (West Midlands), Wrexham (Wales), Cardiff (Wales), Pembrokeshire (Wales), and Sandwell (West Midlands).
The exception is Croydon in London, where Labour came first by a whisker.
Italy: Salvini's far-right League beats socialists and Five Star – exit poll
Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party is on course to come top in Italy’s European elections, according to exit polls released shortly after voting ended.
Salvini’s coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, is left fighting the Socialist party for second place.
The League could be the largest single party in the European parliament. But Nigel Farage’s Brexit party could also take that spot.
UK: turnout up in Wales, falls in Northern Ireland
Councils in some areas have reported increased turnouts at this year’s European elections compared with 2014.
The turnout in Wales is up five percentage points on 2014 – 37.3% against 32% in the previous poll. However, the turnout for Northern Ireland, at 45.1%, is down from 51% in 2014, as voter apathy apparently takes hold in a nation still without a devolved government amid deadlock between the two main parties.
Turnout for the south-east is 39.36%, up from 36.3% in 2014, while in the West Midlands it dropped from 32.4% in 2014 to 31.1% this year. Turnout in the north-west is down from 33.3% in 2014 to 33.1% this year, while the north-east has 32.7%, slightly up from 31.6%.
In the south-west, a turnout of 40.5% has been recorded – three percentage points up on 37.4% in 2014, and the eastern region has 36.4%, similar to the 36.6% of 2014. In London, 41.3% of eligible voters turned out, up from 40.1% in 2014.
Elsewhere, the turnout in Yorkshire and the Humber is 33.52% – close to the 2014 figure of 33.66%. The lowest council turnout in the region was Hull at 24.03%, and the highest was Harrogate at 42.78%.
The 2014 turnout, only counting valid votes cast, across the whole of the UK was 35.4%, ranging from 30.9% in the north-east to 51% in Northern Ireland.
Results will be declared in the 12 UK regions from 10pm on Sunday, after the close of polls elsewhere in the EU.
Greece: PM calls early elections after defeat
The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has called snap elections after his leftist Syriza party lost seats in the European elections.
With the centre right New Democracy opposition party on course to enjoy a 9.3% lead in European elections tonight, the leftist leader admitted the result fell short of expectations.
The scale of the defeat would have made it difficult for Tsipras’ Syriza government to be a credible interlocutor with international creditors still monitoring post-bailout Greece nine months after the debt-stricken country exited its third EU-IMF funded rescue programme.
The early election is expected to take place June 30th.
Speaking at party headquarters, Tsipras said:
There are two roads, the one of the many, or the one of renewed austerity.
It is up to the Greek people to decide.
I am not going to run away from a fight. We are going to fight this battle just as we have learned to always do.
England: 'I don't see any hypocrisy,' says globe-trotting Brexit party candidate
Helen Pidd, the Guardian’s north of England editor, is at the count in Sunderland for the north-east and has spoken to the Brexit party’s lead candidate for the region, Brian Monteith.
He was a Conservative member of the Scottish parliament between 1999 and 2007, as well as a columnist for the Scotsman. Remarkably, he gave his address as being in Trevien, southern France, when he submitted his candidacy.
Jude Kirton-Darling, who hopes to be re-elected as a Labour MEP in the north-east, tweeted that it was “hypocritical that wealthy Brexiteers like him enjoy their freedom of movement whilst advocating stripping our young people of it”.
Monteith, who seems very confident he will be elected tonight, insisted he was not a hypocrite. “I don’t see any hypocrisy,” he told the Guardian on Sunday evening. “I believe I am just as much of a European as anyone in Norway or Switzerland or Iceland. But I am entitled to stand for the European parliament and I am entitled to vote.”
He said it was not unusual to live in a different country from the one in which you are seeking election, citing “my old friend David Steel”, the SDP politician who in 1989 accepted an invitation from Italian Liberals to stand for the European parliament.
“So it’s not unusual and in fact I am already in the throes of moving house back to the UK when I was invited to stand. The fact that France is my address as my main residence is neither here nor there,” said Monteith, who quit the Conservative party in 2005 after a row with the then Scottish Tory leader, David McLetchie.
As well as working as a journalist, Monteith says he is a “pen for hire” who has worked all over the world, in Uganda, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan and Tunisia, and recently wrote a speech on climate change for the president of Nigeria. “I spend a great deal of my time not even in France.”
Asked by the Guardian if he would move to the north-east if elected, he said:
I will certainly consider it ... This is not like any other election. It’s not like a council election, about fixing the pavements, it’s not about the Scottish parliament or Westminster election, about fixing potholes in the street or creating laws. It’s about the European parliament election, which shouldn’t be taking place, and which I would rather were not taking place. It’s about making a statement to the British government, providing a voice to the people to send a message. So as long as I am a good communicator, a good campaigner, a good writer, which is my profession, then being located in, say, Gateshead or Durham, which are places I know well, is not a crucial point. Were it a different kind of election I would consider it more important.
He suggested he would not object to having to apply for a visa to visit his current French home, post-Brexit. “I do not need freedom of movement to determine where I work. If I need to go, as I have done earlier in the year, to the United States, I apply for a visa. If I have to work in Nigeria or Pakistan, I apply for a visa … I am not hypocritical because I accept the laws of other countries and I abide by them.”
But Richard Elvin, Ukip’s lead candidate in the north-east, suggested voters may regret voting for a candidate who lives abroad. “When the people of the north-east wake up and find their chief representative is a Thatcherite Scottish Tory who lives in France they may regret it ... I believe you should live in the constituency you represent. If you live in France, wow. As I speak German, why don’t I ask one of the German parties if I can stand in Germany?”
Portugal: Socialist party on course to win, as Greens break through
Three polls in Portugal suggest the governing Socialist party is on course for victory, winning eight or nine seats, followed by the conservative Social Democratic party with five to seven and the Left Bloc with two to three.
The green People-Animals-Nature party looks set to win its first seat.
England: London votes counted
The Press Association reports that the regional voting turnout figure for London in the European elections is 41.3%, up from 40.1% in 2014.
All 32 boroughs and the City of London have finished counting votes, it quotes the regional returning officer, Janet Senior, as saying.
Despite this, it has been reported that the London results will not be announced until 2am.
Greece: PM mulls early elections after crushing defeat
Will he or won’t he ? That is the question Greeks are asking in the run-up to an expected announcement from the PM, Alexis Tsipras, over possible snap polls following his leftist party’s crushing defeat in the European elections.
With Syriza trailing the centre-right New Democracy by 8.5 % ( and very possibly 9% once official results are announced), the opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has called for the 44-year-old leader to resign immediately and call early elections.
Before the poll Tsipras had called the election a confidence vote in his government and promised to redress years of austerity with €1bn worth of handouts.
“It is obvious that the Greek people have withdrawn their confidence in this government,” Mitsotakis said in an address in the last hour. “The prime minister must assume his responsibilities. He must resign and the country should hold national elections the soonest possible.”
Exit poll findings suggested Syriza had also lost the youth vote, with the majority of Greeks aged between 17 and 24 voting for ND and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn.
State TV also said exit polls signalled the centre-right ND was on course to win with between 30.5-33.5% of the vote, compared with 25.5-28.5% for Syriza.
As ND cadres rejoiced within minutes of the ballot closing, the government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, announced the ruling party had not sustained the strategic defeat [its opponent] was looking forward to. “Quite the contrary, it is one of the main pillars of the political system that is capable of achieving a win in the upcoming [national] elections,” he said.
Poland: ruling nationalist party crushes hopes of pro-EU coalition
Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) may have prevailed in the country’s European elections, an exit poll suggests.
If confirmed, the result will be a demoralising blow for the opposition European Coalition, a pre-electoral pact made up of several opposition parties which had high hopes of victory.
The poll projects a result for PiS of 42.4%, giving it 24 seats, ahead of the European Coalition on 39.1%, a projected 22 seats.
Turnout is estimated to be up significantly on 2014, when it was 23.83%. But whereas it was widely assumed a high turnout would benefit the European Coalition, the leading member of which is the moderate centre-right Civic Platform party, preliminary results appear to suggest PiS has been successful in mobilising its conservative base through its focus on a perceived threat to traditional values and national sovereignty from western secular values.
It is also set to be a very disappointing night for Robert Biedroń, a leftwing former mayor and anti-homophobia campaigner whose recently formed Wiosna (Spring) party is estimated to have received 6.6% of the vote, far less than anticipated at the beginning of the campaign. Widely feted in the liberal media at home and abroad as Poland’s answer to Emmanuel Macron, Biedroń’s projected result is just 0.5% better than that of Konfederacja, an alliance of nationalist and far-right parties whose leading figures have courted attention with antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic and pro-Kremlin rhetoric.
England: Brexit party could sweep to spectacular result in Southampton
Nigel Farage, arguably the biggest attraction of the night, is anticipated to arrive at Southampton Civic Centre shortly, where the results for the south-east of England are being counted.
He’s likely to be in high spirits too: the Brexit party has made spectacular gains since its launch in January and is likely to sweep the board here.
Farage is one of the region’s longest-standing MEPs, having held a seat here since 1999. For the last six weeks though, he’s fought the campaign trail on slightly different terms to Ukip. Instead of immigration, his focus has been on ensuring Brexit is delivered as soon as possible while insisting that “democracy is on the line”.
According to the latest projections, the Liberal Democrats are also likely to make gains, with Labour and the Conservatives lagging behind the Greens. Earlier on Sunday, candidates in the south-east from both the main parties predicted serious losses.
The Sunday Telegraph columnist and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has warned the Tories face “total annihilation”. He blamed Theresa May’s previous reluctance to resign for the predicted defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”
Similarly, the Labour MEP John Howarth told party supporters they “deserved better” in this election. Criticising the party’s stance on Brexit, he told People’s Vote UK: “Had Labour’s ‘high command’ set out to lose an election they could not have gone about it in a more convincing way.”
Farage seemed to be more confident. Writing in the Express on Sunday, he said the Brexit party had “taken politics by storm” and was “here to stay”. Though Ukip outdid the other parties here in 2014, winning four out of 10 seats, all of its MEPs have since abandoned the party.
Ireland: Varadkar vows to act on 'clear message' after green surge
Ireland’s Green party has surged in the European elections, clinching at least one and possibly three of Ireland’s 13 seats, according to an exit poll.
The sudden crest in support for the Greens – also reflected in local elections – came amid growing anxiety in Ireland over climate change and biodiversity loss.
Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach and head of the ruling centre-right Fine Gael party, said the public had sent a “clear message” to his government and he vowed to act faster on the environment. The government is due to unveil a climate action plan soon.
An exit poll for RTÉ released after voting stations closed on Friday night suggested the Green candidate in Dublin, Ciarán Cuffe, will top the poll with 23%.
Grace O’Sullivan, the party’s candidate in the South constituency, got 12%, which gave her a strong chance of winning a seat under a proportional representation system of vote transfers.
Saoirse McHugh, a 28-year-old political newcomer from Achill island off the coast of Mayo, attracted a similar level of support in the exit poll, which could clinch her a seat in the Midlands North West constituency.
Results are due to be announced after 10pm on Sunday.
Fine Gael and another centrist party, Fianna Fáil, were between them expected to win most of the other seats. Sinn Féin appeared to be in danger of losing one or more of the three seats it holds in the country.
In Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist party were expected to each hold a seat, with smaller parties vying for Northern Ireland’s third seat.
Green party candidates also surged in Ireland’s local elections, putting them on course to win about a 10th of 994 council seats.
Ireland’s Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, said he would consider entering a future coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.
In a referendum held on the same day as the elections Ireland voted to ease restrictions on divorce by an overwhelming majority, continuing the country’s social liberalisation.
Voters approved a constitutional referendum by 1,384,192 yes votes (82.1%) to 302,319 no votes (17.9%), one of the largest referendum margins in the country’s history.
UK: Tory source manages expectations, as Lib Dem predicts wins
Romania: ruling party slides in exit poll amid record turnout
In Romania, the ruling PSD – ostensibly a social democrat party but increasingly populist – seems to have taken a drubbing at the polls, gaining just 25.8%, according to an exit poll just published. The National Liberal party was also on 25.8% while USR Plus, a new coalition of liberals, was on 23.9%, which will be seen as an impressive showing if the results bear out the exit poll. A liberal-tinged diaspora vote not included in the exit poll may swing things further. The turnout was a record high, close to 50%.
An exit poll in Poland has given the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) 42.4% of the vote against 39.1% for a coalition of opposition forces. The results are roughly what was expected, though there had been suggestions PiS could suffer at the polls after a controversy over paedophilia in the church erupted in the weeks before the election. The opposition coalition hoped to beat PiS and take momentum into parliamentary elections later in the year to unseat the populist ruling party from government. The liberal, pro-European Wiosna party was on 6.6% and the far-right Konfederacja on 6.1% in the exit poll, suggesting they would both clear the threshold for representation.
Meanwhile in Hungary, a pro-government newspaper is offering a leaked report of the vote count, claiming Viktor Orbán’s far-right Fidesz party is due to take 55% of the vote and 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats, which would roughly align with pre-election polling.
Spain: socialists ahead as far right loses vote share – exit polls
A poll for the online Spanish newspaper Eldiario.es suggests the governing socialist party, PSOE, has scored a comfortable win in the European elections, taking 18 seats and 28.4% of the vote.
Second is the conservative People’ party (PP), with 11 seats and 17.3% of the vote, followed by the centre-right Citizens party with nine seats and 16%.
The leftwing, anti-austerity coalition Unidas-Podemos is fourth with seven seats and 12.4%, while the far-right Vox is fifth, with four seats and 6.5% of the vote.
A poll for the rightwing Spanish daily ABC also gave victory to the socialists, with 18 seats. Next were the PP with 11-12, Citizens with eight, Unidas-Podemos with seven, and Vox with four to five.
The polls suggest the two Catalan pro-independence parties could win as many as five seats between them.
It is worth remembering that it’s an electoral super-Sunday here in Spain, with regional and municipal polls as well as European ones.
A poll for the Spanish TV channel Telemadrid is predicting leftwing parties will hold Madrid city council, currently led by Manuela Carmena.
The poll is also forecasting the conservative PP will lose control of the Madrid region, which it has held since 1995. It that happens, it will be a devastating blow for the PP, which is still reeling from its awful showing in last month’s general election.
Meanwhile, a poll for El Periódico de Catalunya is predicting a tie for the Barcelona city council, with the party of the incumbent mayor, Ada Colau, taking 10-11 seats – the same number as those of her pro-independence rival Ernest Maragall.
Summary: Liberal, Greens and far right gains set to fragment EU parliament
With the last polls due to close in less than 90 minutes in Europe, here is a summary of what we know so far.
- Turnout could reach 51% in 27 countries of the EU, excluding the UK. If confirmed, this would be the best result for 20 years. Officials do not have data for the UK, which could depress the figures slightly.
- Participation is up in at least 13 countries in the EU, according to early data, with some of the biggest increases in Hungary and Romania. France is on course for its best-ever turnout.
- The grand coalition of left and right is set to lose its 40-year long majority: the European People’s party and the Socialists & Democrats will together lose 92 seats compared with 2014.
- European Liberals are among the big winners of the night, as Emmanuel Macron rides to their rescue. A new centrist liberal group is forecast to have 102 seats, up from the 67 they have under the current MEP, leader Guy Verhofstadt. But national results are a setback for Macron, as exit polls suggest he will come second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.
- The Greens are predicted to win 71 seats in the European parliament, their best-ever result. Performance has been strong in Germany, where the Greens have almost doubled their 2014 result to leapfrog the SPD into second place with 22%.
- The far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group is on course to win 57 seats, up from 30 a few years ago. That result is not the breakthrough of more than 70 seats many had forecast – although we still await final results and the makeup of the group.
UK: estimated declaration times
The following regions will declare at the below times, according to the Press Association.
- East Midlands – 11.30pm Sunday (11.20pm in 2014).
- Eastern – 11.30pm Sunday (10.30pm in 2014).
- London – 2am Monday (3.06am in 2014).
- North-east – 10.30pm Sunday (10.15pm in 2014).
- North-west – 12.30am Monday (12.24am in 2014).
- Scotland – 11am Monday (12.35pm in 2014). N.B. Seats allocation for Scotland will be known from overnight local counts but the Western Isles count taking place later in the day will delay the final declaration.
- Wales – 12.01am Monday (11.38pm Sunday in 2014).
- South-east – 1am Monday (12.46pm in 2014).
- South-west – 11pm Sunday (11.38pm in 2014).
- West Midlands – 12.01am Monday (12.30am in 2014).
- Yorkshire & the Humber – 11pm Sunday (11.28pm in 2014).
Liberals: Macron will join centrist group in European parliament
The outgoing leader of the Liberal group in the European parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has announced that Emmanuel Macron’s MEPs will create a new centrist group.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Alde) will join with Macron’s 22 MEPs in the next parliament.
Together the group is expected to have 102 of the parliament’s 751 seats, making it a kingmaker, as the two largest parties lose ground.
This idea was not lost on Verhofstadt, who has been speaking to journalists at the parliament in Brussels in the last few minutes.
For the first time in 40 years, the two classical parties, Socialists and Conservatives, will no longer have a majority. And that means that no solid pro-European majority is possible without the help, without the participation of our new centrist group.
It’s clear this evening is a historical moment, because there will be a new balance of power in the European parliament.
He rejected the idea that Macron had suffered a defeat, by coming second to Marine Le Pen.
What you call a defeat I call a victory ... Our partner has approximately 22 seats.
England: focus in north-west on Tommy Robinson
All eyes in the north-west will be on the anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson. Since announcing his candidacy four and a half weeks ago, Robinson has run the sort of campaign you might expect from the founder of the English Defence League: chaotic, occasionally violent, and centred heavily on Islam and “treacherous” elites.
If turnout is low, he will need around 8% of the vote – about 130,000 votes – to become Britain’s first independent MEP. It is a big ask: the crowds at his rallies have ranged from 50 people to 400, while most of his large online fanbase will not be able to vote in the north-west.
As for elsewhere, the Brexit party will expect to mop up disaffected leave voters. Its number one candidate here in the north-west, Claire Fox, is probably one of the party’s lesser-known prospective MEPs and has faced criticism for refusing to apologise for comments about the IRA bombing of Warrington, which may cost the party some votes in this region.
Labour won three of the region’s eight seats when it came top with 33.9% of the vote in 2014. This time the party will be expecting its carefully nuanced Brexit position to cost it votes, to the benefit of the Brexit party, Lib Dems and Greens.
The Conservative party, which won two MEPs here in 2014, is expecting a hammering. One of its MEPs, Sajjad Karim, said he expected the party’s share of the vote to be slashed to about 8% from 20.1%, telling the Guardian that if he keeps his seat it will be “by the skin of my teeth”. He said: “The Conservative party has completely abandoned the election battleground in these elections and they will live to regret that.”
Ukip finished second here in 2014, winning three seats with 27.5% of the vote. All three MEPs have since abandoned the party and none of them are contesting this election. It will be a punishing night for Gerard Batten’s party.
Results are expected around midnight.
Poll of polls: Europe's centre right and centre left could lose 92 seats – polls
Europe’s largest centre right and centre left blocs are set to lose 92 seats, according to an aggregate of polling data.
Officials have just released the first snapshot of what the next European parliament will look like, based on exit polls.
Results are not due until 10.15pm UK time.
On this projection:
- The European People’s party remains the largest in the parliament, but loses 48 seats.
- The Socialists & Democrats remain the second-largest force, but are reduced to 147 seats.
- The Liberals will be the third-largest group, winning 102 seats (up from 67 seats).
- Greens are on course for 71 seats, a big gain on the 50 seats won in 2014.
- The Conservative Eurosceptic group set up by David Cameron loses seats and Nigel Farage’s group makes limited gains.
- The far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom group gains 11 seats, but not the breakthrough many had forecast.
Health warning: these are not results and parties may choose to join different groups, making any estimate unstable. For instance, nobody knows whether Hungary’s Fidesz party will remain in the EPP or look for allies on the far right.
Greece: centre-right opposition ahead of Tsipras's radical left
Government officials in Greece are downplaying exit polls which indicate that the main opposition New Democracy party has emerged with an 8.5-point lead over Syriza, the governing party.
Five TV channels have reported the result since ballot boxes closed at 7pm local time, estimating that New Democracy is projected to win between 32.5–34.5% of the vote compared with 24–26% of the vote for leftist Syriza.
The projection was based on exit polls conducted by five research companies.
State TV also said exit polls signalled the centre-right ND was on course to win with between 30.5% of the vote and 33.5% of the vote compared with 25.5-28.5% for Syriza.
As ND cadres rejoiced within minutes of the ballot closing, the government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, announced the ruling party had “not sustained the strategic defeat [its opponent] was looking forward to ... Quite the contrary, it is one of the main pillars of the political system that is capable of achieving a win in the upcoming [national] elections.”
Seen as a test run in an election year, today’s vote – held alongside local elections for municipal and regional seats – had assumed unprecedented significance for the entire political establishment.
As campaigning wrapped up on Friday, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, suggested he would call snap polls if his party and its policies were rejected at the ballot box. The leftist leader, whose four-year term ends in October, had based much of his bid to regain ground lost navigating Greece’s debt crisis by promising €1bn worth of handouts in the form of tax cuts and pension benefits over the next two years.
New Democracy has long claimed Syriza will be stripped of any legitimacy to go on governing if it loses badly tonight.
Firm results are expected in the coming hours.
France: Le Pen's far-right puts Macron in second place - exit polls
Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party is estimated to have topped the European election vote in France, dealing a blow to the pro-European, centrist president Emmanuel Macron.
A projection for France 2 television, based on exit polls, showed Le Pen’s party coming first with 23.2%, ahead of Macron’s centrist grouping on 21.9%.
If confirmed, the result is symbolically damaging to Macron because he put himself centre stage of a bruising and personal election campaign, styling himself as a champion for Europe and defining the vote as an existential fight between pro-Europe progressives and eurosceptic, far-right nationalists.
The vote was the first mid-term test for Macron and his centrist party, after six months of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) anti-government protests resulted in riots, death and injuries across France. Le Pen had said repeatedly that if her party beat Macron, he should resign.
France had an unexpectedly high turnout, estimated to be over 50% – the highest in decades – and higher than the last parliamentary elections.
From noon on Sunday, as voters went to the polls, it was clear that turnout was high in areas with strong support for Le Pen, including in Pas-de-Calais in the north and Picardy, as well as in rural areas where the yellow vest protests on roundabouts began last autumn.
The French far-right election campaign, headed by a slick young candidate from the Paris banlieue, Jordan Bardella, had steadily grown in support since January. Bardella, 23, is set to become one of the youngest ever members of the European parliament.
Le Pen, who took over the far-right party from her father in 2011 and recently changed its name, is experienced at shaping European election campaigns as a national protest vote against those in power – her party also came first in the last European elections in 2014.
Le Pen pitched this campaign as the ultimate protest vote – her party’s main message was “Stop Macron” – styling it as a referendum against the centrist young leader whose popularity has slumped.
Le Pen no longer wants France to leave the EU in a so-called Frexit – nor to leave the euro currency. Instead, along with other populist, far-right and national allies such as Italy’s Matteo Salvini, she is seeking to unpick the bloc from the inside, promoting what she calls “a union of national states”.
Coming first in the European vote is personally very important for Le Pen because her standing within her party depends on it. She has struggled to recover from a poor and erratic final presidential TV debate against Macron two years ago in the presidential final in 2017. A strong European election score would allow her to reassert her position within her party and secure her candidacy for the next presidential race in 2022. It is also important for Le Pen’s standing with her new group of international allies, including Salvini.
Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist for Donald Trump, who has described himself as an informal adviser to nationalist parties in Europe, arrived in France during the election campaign saying “of all the elections happening this weekend in Europe”, those in France were “by far the most important”. He predicted “an earthquake” for Le Pen, saying Salvini, Le Pen and the UK’s Nigel Farage could head four of the biggest political parties in the European parliament.
Macron had called the elections “the most important since 1979”, warning the EU was facing “an existential risk” from nationalists seeking to divide the bloc.
Coming second does not in theory change Macron’s ability to govern at home, where he still has a large parliamentary majority. But having staked so much personally on the campaign – including appearing alone on election posters – the second-place position is a symbolic setback for the delivery of his pro-business project to overhaul the welfare state at home, as well as his ability to influence the European debate.
The Paris government is preparing several major political changes – namely unemployment benefits system and pensions, and yellow vest protests are continuing, even if the numbers of protesters are down.
UK: forecast predicts Brexit party victory as Lib Dems surge
Britain Elects has posted its poll of polls in a forecast of tonight’s results. It makes for interesting reading, with Labour and the Conservatives potentially doing slightly better than some have been saying.
Turnout: highest for 20 years
Turnout across the EU27 member states is close to 51%, the European parliament has announced. That is the best score since 1994.
Officials are awaiting data from the UK, which could leave the EU-wide figure at 49-52%.
In Denmark a record 63% of voters have gone to the polls (updates our figures from previous post), while in France, turnout is predicted to be 54%, the highest in 35 years.
My colleague, Jon Henley, has more on what is turning into one of the big stories of the night: EU election turnout rises as political landscape fragments.
Worth keeping an eye on Europe Elects’ live results projection graphic:
Turnout: up in 13 countries
Voters participation has risen in 13 countries, according to early data on turnout released by the European parliament.
Among seven countries where voting has closed, turnout has gone up in the Netherlands, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Slovakia had the lowest turnout across the EU in 2014, so its score will be closely watched.
Turnout went down in Malta.
- Netherlands: 41.2% (37.3% in 2014)
- Latvia: 33% (30.1% in 2014)
- Slovakia: 20.1% (13% in 2014)
- Czech Republic: 20.2% (18.2% in 2014)
- Malta: 72.6% (74.8% in 2014).
We don’t have information on turnout yet for the UK or Ireland.
Among the 21 countries voting on Sunday, turnout has gone up in nine, with striking increases in Hungary, Romania, Spain and Poland. The data is based on preliminary turnout at 1600 CEST.
Turnout has gone down slightly in Italy and Portugal. It has fallen by 3.5% in Bulgaria.
- Hungary 30.5% (19.5% in 2014)
- Denmark 37.6% (30.2% in 2014)
- Romania 31.4% (18.4% in 2014)
- France 19.2% (15.7% in 2014)
- Italy 16.06% (16.66% in 2014)
- Spain 34.6% (23.87% in 2014)
- Poland 14.39% (7.3% in 2014)
- Bulgaria 15.47% (19.05% in 2014)
Malta: Muscat's Labour party set to win after 16 year-olds vote for first time
Malta’s Labour party are set for victory, with the official estimate reporting that they will receive 55% of the vote, with the Nationalist party (PN) in second place on 37% after 73% of the electorate turned out to vote – the largest among EU countries reported so far.
This would see Labour picking up another seat to take their total to four, at the expense of the Nationalist party, whose number of MEP’s would fall to two.
In response to indications that his party had lost by more than 50,000 votes to Labour, PN leader Adrian Delia said the people had spoken and the result was clear, while rejecting suggestions that he might step down.
“We accept the result with humility, we will examine it and learn the lessons which need to be learnt,” he told broadcasters. “We need to understand their aspirations, and why they did not choose us to be their voice.”
Ahead of the vote, Delia’s party had taken out billboard adverts across the island further publicising their anti-abortion stance. Delia had called the European election – the first that 16-18 year olds were eligible to vote in – a “referendum on abortion”.
Meanwhile, the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has been celebrating. According to the Malta Times, he hailed an unprecedented margin of victory and called for national unity in a speech on a balcony in the capital.
“Let us again extend our hand of friendship, this is not the movement of division but of unity,” he said, adding that he hoped the PN MEPs would seek to work in Malta’s interests. “We are ready to work with you, you should be ready to work with us.”
UK: counting gets under way
The count for the south-east of England is now under way at Southampton’s civic centre. Nigel Farage, who has been an MEP for the constituency since 1999, is expected to arrive at the venue after 9pm.
The first turnout figures for the UK show the area covering Birmingham at 31.1% (down from 32.4% in 2014), while the turnout for the south east in the European elections is 39.36%, which is up from 36.3% in 2014.
With a population of nine million, the south east of England is a huge region sprawling from Kent to Oxford. It’s unsurprising then that despite voting kicking off around an hour ago, we won’t find out the final result of the EU elections here until around 1am.
A total of 10 seats are up for grabs, and the results are likely to be interesting. The region is largely Eurosceptic – voting heavily in favour of leaving the European Union in 2016 – while traditionally it has also been a Conservative’s heartland – although they lost out to UKIP in 2014.
Farage is one of the constituency’s longest serving MEPs, and if the polls are anything to go by, he’s likely to be victorious again tonight – although the same might not be the case for his old party, UKIP.
Elsewhere, in Edinburgh, the count is also now in progress.
Results of the elections will be announced after 10pm on Sunday, when the final polls have closed across Europe, and both the Conservatives and Labour are set for losses with voters expected to swing towards the Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats.
Seventy-three MEPs will be elected to represent the UK, with England, Scotland and Wales using a form of proportional representation called the D’Hondt system and Northern Ireland using the single transferable vote method.
However, it remains unclear how much time the newly elected MEP’s will spend in Brussels.
Austria: far right suffer limited losses over 'Ibizagate' scandal
The centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) of chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, performed strongly in the Alpine state, where the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) suffered less severely than expected from a recent corruption scandal.
Exit polls saw Kurz’s conservatives as the strongest party on 34.5% of the vote, up by 7.5% on the previous elections. The centre-left SPÖ came second on 23.5% but performed slightly less well than in 2014.
Austria’s political landscape has over the last week been shaken up by the emergence of a video showing Freedom party leader and vice-chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, offering a purported Russian heiress lucrative public contracts in exchange for campaign support. Strache resigned from government, and the remaining FPÖ ministers have been fired or resigned from office since.
But the rightwing populist party fared better in the European elections than many had expected, with their share of the vote only down by 2.2 percentage points, at 17.5%.
Italy: protest votes and rising populism in Sicily
The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, was among the first to cast a ballot in his home city and Sicilian capital of Palermo early on Sunday morning, but turnout on the southern island was at midday just 8.7%, the lowest in the country, with many people voting in protest.
“My wife and I decided to mark a blank ballot,” said Pietro, a manager in Palermo. “All of the Italian parties have let us down.”
Others were undecided until the last minute. The Five Star Movement (M5S) was the first party after general elections last year, but has since lost ground to the far-right League and leftwing groups.
“I didn’t vote for the last two years,” said Chiara Maio.
I have always been leftwing, my late husband was a true communist and we shared the same ideas. I recently started to like [M5S leader] Luigi Di Maio, and when I woke up this morning, said to myself: ‘I will vote for the M5S’. But then I got a message from my daughter, saying ‘remember dad is watching you in the voting booth from up there’. And so I voted for the [centre-left] Democratic Party.
But sympathies towards neofascist groups have been rising in Sicily.
“If I had followed by gut instinct, I would have voted for CasaPound,” said Attilio. “But I would have wasted my vote, so I voted for the lesser evil – Matteo Salvini.”
There was loud applause at a voting station on the island of Ischia as Caterina Massaro, aged 104, cast her ballots in EU and communal elections in her hometown of Casamicciola Terme, which was hit by an earthquake in 2017. Her grandson told reporters that at each election, she registers for the next one. “It’s an omen for her and also for those who want a world filled with goodness,” he said.
Spain: turnout surges ahead of 2014
The latest participation figures in Spain put turnout at 49% by 6pm local time – well up from 34% at the same time five years ago, Sam Jones writes from Madrid.
That means Spain is on course to surpass 2014 turnout of 43.8%.
Hungary: Viktor Orbán's party leads poll on anti-migrant campaign
There is not too much suspense in Hungary, where Fidesz, the party of the far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is going to dominate the vote. The only question is just how decisive its victory will be. Polls before voting day had Fidesz winning about 55% of the vote and 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the European parliament. The new liberal party Momentum is hoping to edge across the 5% threshold and grab a seat.
Orbán has based the whole Fidesz campaign around the issue of migration, as he has done with all campaigns for the past few years. Budapest is plastered with anti-migration billboards and Orbán has spoken of the importance for the future of Europe that the next parliament is dominated by “anti-migration” forces. Orbán will be a key player in the building of any nationalist/populist coalition in the next parliament. Fidesz are hanging on in the centre-right EPP grouping by a thread, but Orbán has been flirting with Salvini and his new nationalist bloc.
On the streets of Budapest on Sunday, there were signs the anti-migration message is working. In the third district, on the Buda side of the Danube, 33-year-old cleaning lady Barbara Erlaki said she was voting Fidesz because “I will only feel safe if Orbán stays in power”. She also liked the Orbán government’s pro-family policy. A 76-year-old woman who declined to give her name said she had voted Fidesz because of its migration policy: “I don’t want the migrants to come in. It’s not about supporting Orbán, it’s about being against the migrants. I’m old now but I’m worried for the young people.”
There were also many who had backed opposition parties and expressed disgust at Orbán’s politics and rhetoric, but the strongholds of Fidesz are in the countryside, and a higher-than-ever turnout for European elections points to the government mobilising its voting base well.
Cyprus: ruling Disy party set to win
Over in Cyprus, the EU’s most easterly member state, counting has begun after voting concluded at 6pm local time with exit polls indicating that for the first time ever a Turkish Cypriot will win one of the six seats reserved for the island nation – a massive boost for those who support reunification.
Niyazi Kizilyürek, an academic at the University of Cyprus, was fielded by Akel, the main opposition leftist party in the Greek-controlled south and has been campaigning on both sides of the divided island.
Akel is on track to come in second with between 27-30.5% of the vote after the ruling Disy party at a close 28-31.5% of the vote, according to exit polls. In another encouraging sign for progressives, exit polls are also showing that the far right Elam party, an offshoot of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, has failed to pick up enough support to send an MP to the European parliament.
Addressing reporters, chief returning officer Kypros Kyprianou said overall turnout was 42.8%, marginally lower than the 43.97% who voted in the European elections in 2014. Results were expected to be known at 8. 30pm local time (6.30 GMT) but, in line with other member states, would only be formally announced at midnight, he said.
“At the moment the polls have closed and the voting process has ended at all polling stations, both in the Republic and abroad,” said Kyprianou. “In a little while, we expect to have the first results, which as you already know, we may only publicise when the polls in all member states will have closed, that is, midnight.”
In a first Turkish Cypriot voters participated en masse, crossing the island’s UN-patrolled green line to cast ballots in the Greek-controlled south. Of the 72 candidates running for seats, nine are Turkish Cypriots.
Germany: Greens rise, as established parties flounder – exit poll
Exit polls in Germany paint a picture of a sobering night for the two large centrist parties, and a particularly devastating evening for the centre-left.
Both Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Union could face the worst result at European elections in their history, with the CDU at 28%, and the SPD at 15.5% of the vote.
The Green party look like the biggest winners of the evening, almost doubling their 2014 result to leapfrog the SPD into second place with 22%. The rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are also expected to have improved on their first elections in 2014, with a projected 10.5%
Exit polls from state elections in Bremen tonight will add to a sense of doom and gloom at the SPD headquarters in Berlin: the Social Democrats look likely to be beaten into second place for the first time ever in the city state where the centre-left has governed uninterrupted for over 70 years.
Netherlands: Socialists top exit polls, Eurosceptics fall short
Social Democrats have topped the polls in the Dutch European elections, while a Eurosceptic party for a referendum on “Nexit” has missed expectations, according to an exit poll published by the European parliament.
The poll comes with the usual health warnings, as this is not the final result.
It shows that the Dutch Labour party (PvdA) – which suffered crushing losses in the 2017 elections – is in first place with 18% of the vote.
The far-right Freedom party, led by Geert Wilders, could fall to its worst-ever result in a European election: it has 4% of the vote, compared to a 2009 high of 17%.
The Forum voor Democratie, which wants a referendum on EU membership, has 11% of the vote. While still a breakthrough for the party launched in 2016 by flamboyant Eurosceptic Thierry Baudet, the exit poll falls short of expectations. The FvD trails Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s VVD Liberals and the Christian Democrats, both on four seats.
The Freedom Party has been the main casualty of Baudet’s arrival: the exit poll suggested it would gain only one seat.
There were also losses for the left-liberal D66 group, whose MEPs have had a strong voice in the outgoing European parliament. The Green Left party is on course to pick up a seat, taking its tally to three.
To find out more about Baudet – the philosopher-dandy with a penchant for playing piano in his office, posing nude on social media and quoting Latin in parliament – read Jon Henley’s excellent piece, Dutch Eurosceptics dream of a united front to roll back the EU.
Belgium: far-right surge in national parliament elections
The far-right Flemish separatist party, the Vlaams Belang, looks set to make gains in Belgium’s national parliament.
Belgium has also held a “Super Sunday” of European, national and regional elections. The results are expected to entrench divisions, with Dutch-speaking Flanders forecast to move right, while French-speaking Wallonia goes left.
According to partial results published by the Francophone national broadcaster, the Vlaams Belang is up 13% in the federal parliament, while the centre-right Flemish separatist party, the New Flemish Alliance, has increased its vote share by 6%.
The big loser appears to be the Francophone liberal party of prime minister Charles Michel. His Reformer Movement party is down 8.5% according to RTBF.
Spain: Socialists hope for political honeymoon; People's party attacks far-right
Spaniards are heading to the ballot box for a “Super-Sunday” of European, regional and municipal elections today, less than a month after the country’s third general election in under four years.
By 2pm local time, participation stood at 34.8%, well up on the 23.9% at the same point five years ago.
The ruling socialist party, led by acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez, will be hoping for a honeymoon effect after it won the most votes last month, but fell short of a majority in congress.
Twelve of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions are in play, as are the city councils of both Madrid and Barcelona. Much of the attention will be on whether the conservative People’s party, which performed disastrously in the general election, will manage to hold on to the Madrid region, which it has ruled for the past 24 years.
As they turned out to vote, Spain’s political leaders called for massive participation.
“Today is a very important day,” tweeted Sánchez. “Today we decide the future of Europe and Spain over the coming years.”
The PP leader, Pablo Casado, acknowledged the party’s poor showing at the general election, tweeting: “I encourage everyone to vote, including those who were disappointed by the general election result.”
He also renewed his attack on the far-right Vox party. After cosying up to the party in the run-up to the election, Casado has now executed a u-turn and decried Vox as extremists.
“Today is about deciding local politics and a sensible European politics in the face of extremisms, and [ensuring] a counterweight to the government’s policies,” he added.
Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Citizens party – which has also tacked further to the right in recent months – offered a similar message.
“Let’s vote en masse to form sensible, liberal governments across the country to lead the reforms Europe needs,” he said on Twitter.
Manuela Carmena, who is seeking re-election as Madrid mayor, also called for massive participation.
“Let no one stay at home,” she tweeted. “Madrid is better when everyone gets involved.”
Ada Colau, who is in a tight race to win another term as Barcelona mayor, said: “It’s a very important and exciting day for Barcelona. The men and women of Barcelona have the last word on deciding how they want the city to confront the challenges it has. Let’s vote with joy and hope.”
Two of the most high-profile Catalan independence leaders are also contesting the European elections.
Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president who fled Spain to avoid arrest over his role in the failed push for Catalan independence, is running from self-imposed exile in Brussels.
His former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, is one of the dozen Catalan pro-independence leaders currently on trial in Madrid over the secession bid. Despite being in prison, he won a seat in congress last month and is aiming to clinch one in the European parliament.
Italy: Matteo Salvini flouts electoral rules in divisive campaign
Italians went to the polls on Sunday after a divisive campaign that left many feeling confused and worried as key parties failed to offer up clear and positive policies for Europe.
“A European election campaign has never felt like this before,” said Gualtieri Pinci after casting his vote at a polling station in central Rome.
Right up until the moment I entered the booth, I didn’t know who to vote for. Politically, everything is very confusing, no party has a clear vision, just lots of vague declarations. I like Europe and regret what I see happening in the UK.
There was a steady flow of voters to the polling station throughout Sunday morning, with Angelo Libri saying that the “European project is something that needs to be taken forward”.
Matteo Salvini’s far-right League maintained a lead position in the polls, despite slipping slightly in recent weeks, as it stuck to its common themes of cracking down on illegal immigration and fighting against myriad EU policies.
“Salvini has exploited bad feeling but Europe made it easy for him to do so,” said Maria Carolina Cirillo. “We need to be more united. But then there are some states in Eastern Europe who despite really wanting to join the EU have maintained rigid policies.”
Cinzia Canti said:
Usually us Italians don’t expect much from voting but the EU elections are important. It’s important that we have peace, solidarity and acceptance of others – I’m afraid of our current government, which is hostile towards anything different.
The election is also seen as a key test for the stability of its coalition government with the Five Star Movement (M5S), which is expected to come second followed by the centre-left Democratic Party.
An M5S representative at the polling station failed to provide any clarity on the party’s policies for Europe other than to say, “we want more flexibility”.
Turnout was at 16.72% by around midday. Matteo Salvini keeps flouting the rules on electoral silence with a flurry of tweets hash-tagged #voteleaguetoday. “The Europe of finance has failed, today Italy is raising its head,” he wrote in one. “With the Democratic Party and leftwing governments, bureaucrats and bankers won.”
Turnout up in several countries
Turnout could be one of the big stories of the night, with early signs that more people have gone to the polls than in previous European parliament elections.
Turnout was up in early voting in several countries.
In France turnout was 19.3% at noon, compared to 15.7% at the same point in 2014.
In Spain turnout was up to 35% in mid afternoon, compared to 24% at the same time in 2014.
In Germany 29% of registered voters had cast a ballot by 2pm local time, compared to 26% in 2014.
Dutch voters went to the polls on Thursday, recording a 41% turnout, compared to 37% in 2014.
In Poland, turnout at noon was almost twice as high as in 2014, according to the Polish Press Agency’s London correspondent Jakub Krupa.
One number to remember is 42.6%, the EU-wide average for turnout in 2014. EU supporters are hoping the 2019 results will reverse a 40-year downward trend of falling turnout.
EU member states go to the polls
Welcome to our live coverage as four days of voting across European Union member states draw to a close and the counting begins.
As Jon Henley, the Guardian’s European affairs correspondent, writes today:
The western world’s largest democratic exercise is nearing its finale as tens of millions of EU citizens vote in European parliament elections that will shape the bloc’s future.
Polls suggest the vote will produce a more fragmented parliament than ever before, with the two centre-right and centre-left groups that have dominated Europe’s politics forecast to lose their joint majority for the first time, and nationalist and populist forces to make gains.
Both pro- and anti-EU politicians see the elections as a route to controlling Europe’s agenda. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is locked in domestic struggle with far-right leader Marine Le Pen, said the vote comes at “the most perilous moment for Europe since the second world war”.
Our live blog will have all the latest developments from across the EU – including from the UK, still taking part after Brexit delays – in the runup to polls closing at 9pm GMT (10pm BST, 11pm CEST), and throughout the night as votes are counted and results declared.