Thursday 22 August 2019

Conservatives and Labour trounced as Farage hails Euro triumph

Voters reveal divide over failure to deliver Brexit

Celebration: Brexit Party founder and leader Nigel Farage is joined by his victorious MEPs in London. Photo: AFP/Getty
Celebration: Brexit Party founder and leader Nigel Farage is joined by his victorious MEPs in London. Photo: AFP/Getty

Harriet Line

Labour and the Conservatives' Brexit policies were dealt a hammer blow by UK voters in a terrible night for both parties in the European elections.

The Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats triumphed, but the scale of disaster for the main parties was laid bare as the final results for Britain were announced.

The Tories secured just 9.1pc of the vote - their worst ever national election share - while Labour finished on 14.1pc, with voters split between the clear Brexit alternatives offered by Nigel Farage's new party and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

Just four Conservatives were elected in England, Scotland and Wales, while the Brexit Party had 29 seats, overtaking the 24 MEPs that Mr Farage's former party Ukip sent to the European Parliament in 2014.

The Lib Dems - reduced to a single MEP in 2014 - were on 16 after their best ever European results.

Labour had 10, halved from 20, while the Greens - who also enjoyed a boost from pro-EU voters - were on seven, up from three in 2014.

Voter turnout in Britain was the second highest for an EU election, but still low at 36.7pc.

Northern Ireland's cross- community Alliance Party was set to win its first ever European Parliament seat in a surge it said furthered the case for a re-run of Britain's Brexit referendum.

Alliance leader Naomi Long stormed into third place after the first count and her deputy said it looked "fairly certain" she would win one of the North's three seats after campaigning for a second vote on the EU divorce.

The vote indicated increasing support for candidates who are not aligned to the traditional Catholic or Protestant voting blocs and was the best showing for the Alliance Party, which was founded almost 50 years ago.

"This is a vote about Brexit ... it's a vote to remain, it's a vote to have a people's vote," Ms Long, close to tears, said at the Belfast count centre.

"People came together behind Alliance to send a message and that message is we want to stay in the EU."

Sinn Féin topped the poll, just ahead of the Democratic Unionist Party.

By almost trebling the Alliance vote to 18pc compared to the 2014 poll, Ms Long looked set to leave unionist parties without a majority of the country's European seats for the first time.

With some support slipping from the main nationalist and pro-British parties, the votes of those moving towards cross-community parties like the Alliance and Greens could also prove crucial in any future referendum on reunification with Ireland.

Meanwhile, Brexit Party leader Mr Farage said he was getting ready to fight a general election, warning his Brexit Party could "stun everybody" if the UK had not left the EU by then.

"We're not just here to leave the European Union but to try and fundamentally change the shape of British politics, bring it into the 21st century and get a parliament that better reflects the country," he said.

Divisions in Labour were laid bare following the results, with shadow cabinet members Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Tom Watson calling for the party to rethink its position - but leader Jeremy Corbyn said a general election remained his priority.

The Lib Dems topped the poll in Islington, north London - where both Mr Corbyn and Ms Thornberry are MPs.

Tory Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said the dire results for the Conservatives meant the party faced an "existential risk" unless it delivered Brexit.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who became the ninth MP to enter the Conservative leadership race after Prime Minister Theresa May announced her plan to resign, said the "hugely disappointing" results were a "clear lesson" the public wants the government to get on with delivering Brexit.

"People saying we need a Brexit policy to bring people together are misreading the situation. That is clearly not possible."

Prominent Brexiteer and MEP Daniel Hannan, who managed to cling on to his seat in the South East, said it was "without question our worst result as a party ever".

Irish Independent

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