If recent polling is to be believed, Labour stand to be the only party that’sÂ in a credibleÂ position to represent British interests in the European Parliament.
Besides being the party with the most sensible policies (stay inside the EU, but improve, change and reform it), over the next five yearsÂ Labour isÂ likely to be the only one in a position to have a decisive influence on outcomes in Parliament.
In fact, Labour MEPs will be in a pivotal position, while other British parties look likely toÂ be reduced to minor influence on the fringes:
- TheÂ European Conservatives and Reformists groupÂ wasÂ founded by the Conservatives when they rashly splitÂ withÂ from the mainstream centre-right groupÂ five years ago. But the future of the groupÂ is now in seriousÂ doubt: itÂ may lose so many seats that itÂ falls short of the minimum threshold to form a political group in the European Parliament. This would leave Tory MEPs facing either an embarrassing climbdown by rejoining the mainstreamÂ European People’s PartyÂ — almost unthinkable for them — or, more probably, remaining outside the Parliamentâ€™s party groupings and thus diminishing their influence even further. Even if enough MEPs can be cobbled together to form a new version of the ECR group, the right-wingÂ Polish ‘Law and Justice’ party will most likely become the largest member. As well as this party’sÂ trenchant prejudices against gay people, it has some rather striking differences fromÂ Tory policies on the EUÂ in a number of key ways.
- Likewise, UKIP will face their own problems in forming a group in the European Parliament.Â Several of the fringe parties that currently make up their small Europe of Freedom and Democracy group are being wooed by the far-right bloc that’s being constructed by the French National Front and Dutch Freedom Party. Indeed, though Farage has previously claimedÂ that UKIP won’tÂ join this motley crew, rumours persist that he could be tempted if he can’t create a group of his own. After all, they have always been closely linked: former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, a close friend of Farage’s, used to chair the ‘European Alliance for Freedom’Â vehicle that the far-right is now using.
- Meanwhile, polls show that the Lib Dems are on course to return just a quarter of their current 12 MEPs to Brussels. This would make them a vanishingly peripheral voice within the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in EuropeÂ grouping, which itself is likely to be somewhat diminished.
Going against this narrative of parliamentary isolation and alienation, Labour will be one of the largest (if not theÂ absolute largest) partiesÂ within the centre-left Socialists and DemocratsÂ group, which itself could wellÂ be the largest group in the European Parliament. From this powerful starting point, Labour will be able to exercise considerable influence, while other British parties are left at the fringes.