Standby for a seismic change in European politics. Once every 5 years, Europeans get a chance to vote for their representatives in the European Parliament.
European Elections are underway May 23rd across all 28 countries that form the European Union. The results are expected at 2200 GMT on Sunday, May 26th.
Recent European national elections have seen a resurgence of right-wing nationalist and Euro-skeptic parties gaining ground in government, including Italy, Germany, Spain, and Austria, to name just a few. The expected results of these elections will determine how Europe liaise with others, significantly the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the biggest divisive issue by far is Brexit or rather lack of Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May’s three attempts at getting her Brexit Withdrawal Bill through Parliament have failed, and Brexit has been delayed as a result.
Bring on ‘Mr. Brexit’, Nigel Farage, with his newly-formed Brexit Party. Farage, a Member of the European Parliament since 1999, is decidedly a Euro-skeptic. The former leader of UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, led the party to victory in the 2014 European elections.
The United Kingdom voted on Brexit on June 23rd, 2016, with 52% voting to leave the EU and 48% to remain. With an impasse on the UK Parliament deciding what format the withdrawal bill should take, the country remains in limbo.
Theresa May’s deal includes a payment to the European Union of £39 billion as part of the ‘divorce bill’. In contrast, Farage has pledged to ensure the UK leaves the EU “Without paying a penny” of the £39 billion.
If Theresa May’s latest withdrawal bill proposal doesn’t receive a majority of votes, the default position is for the United Kingdom to ‘crash out’ of the EU on the October 31st, 2019, with no deal.
Farage formed his Brexit Party just five weeks ago and already has over 110,000 ‘registered supporters’ (the party doesn’t have ‘members’). With the latest polls suggesting Farage’s Brexit Party gaining over 30% of the U.K. votes, this seems likely to be a serious wake-up call to Theresa May’s ruling Conservative Party, currently ranked 5th alongside the minority Green Party. This is a serious kickback against the establishment parties, both Conservative and Labour, who have dominated UK politics for decades.
Public dissatisfaction with the lack of Brexit is evident from the grassroots up. Local UK council elections on May 2nd saw the ruling Conservative Party losing 1,269 council seats, over a third they had control of and their biggest loss since 1995.
On May 20th, Farage held his penultimate campaign rally in Bolton, North West England and Porter Medium was there to witness the event.
In the medium-sized conference hall, every seat was taken, with standing room only at the back for the 1000-plus attendees. The rally was titled on the Brexit Party website as the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ rally, and this is one of the reasons why,
In a brief interview, Jeff Williams, 57, a career local government employee told me:
“ This government and Theresa May, in particular, has sold out our country to the EU. We voted by a majority to leave the EU in 2016 and as a result of poor negotiation and lack of will by the Prime Minister, we now need a party that will deliver what was voted for by seventeen and a half million voters. I believe Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party are the only ones that are capable of achieving that”Jeff Williams
Similar sentiments were echoed by the crowd, who heard several of the North West Brexit Party MEP candidates give their pitches before Nigel Farage took the stage to rapturous applause.
Photo: Sky News
Mr. Farage had been attacked with a milkshake thrown at him while campaigning earlier in the day in Newcastle, North East England. A 32-year old man was arrested and charged with common assault and criminal damage.
Milkshakes appear to be the current weapon of choice for political objectors, with the former English Defense League founder and current MEP candidate Tommy Robinson suffering similar fates for two days running last week on his campaign trail.
Mr. Farage initially made light of the incident, saying “Whatever they keep throwing at us, we’ll never give up. I’ll just keep buying new clothes”, to cheers and applause from the audience. He added “You only start getting flak when you’re getting near the target”, to much amusement & applause.
But citing the divide in the country over Brexit he also made a serious point, saying “ Senior public figures, including ex-Prime Ministers, have radicalized a small group of people in this country acting in an openly abusive way towards ordinary members of the public who dare to say they support Brexit.”
“The problem is when civility breaks down, democracy breaks down, and that’s where we are in our country today”.
He continued “The very principle of democracy is at stake”.
To further applause, Mr. Farage stated: “I’ve realized over the last few days that the UK political establishment isn’t scared of us, they’re absolutely terrified of us.”
Mr. Farage doesn’t read from a script during his rallies, much like Donald Trump and the response from the audience is similar.
Anti-establishment, appealing to a divided country, calling out the biased media, stricter immigration policies and free trade deals amongst just some of the parallels.
It was no coincidence that the then-candidate Trump invited Nigel Farage to several of his campaign rallies in 2016, announcing Mr. Farage as “The architect of the Brexit movement”.
Watch Nigel Farage at Donald Trump’s rally in Jackson, Mississippi, August 2016 on YouTube – https://youtu.be/oj4K9fr_WgY
Mr. Farage also spoke at the CPAC 2017 at the invitation of President Trump and the two remain close friends and allies. The fact that President Trump has said just this week that he wishes Nigel Farage to be at Queen Elizabeth’s state banquet during his visit next month is a testament to their firm bond.
Mr. Farage whipped the Bolton audience up at his rally, citing the failure of Brexit to yet take place and stating, “If we don’t implement the will of the people we cease to be a functioning democratic nation.”
Anticipating a resounding success at the forthcoming European Elections, Mr. Farage made the demand that his party “become part of the government’s negotiating team to ensure the UK leaves the EU by October 31st“.
October 31st, 2019, is the new deadline given to the U.K. by the EU to finalize a deal to leave. The UK was originally meant to leave the EU on March 29th, 2019.
Mr. Farage’s final message to his following was “Help us make the first step back to becoming a truly democratic, independent nation”.
– Porter Medium will be publishing the results of the European elections and offering opinions on what the results may mean for the future of Europe).