Wednesday, 29 May, 2019
What happened at the EU elections?
The centre-right and centre-left groups remain the first and second biggest group in the Parliament with 180 and 146 seats respectively. However, both lost seats overall.
The big winners were the liberal and green parties. The liberal group grew by approximately 50% to win 109 seats. The greens meanwhile gained seats in most northern European countries, though failed to make gains in southern and eastern Europe.
Despite predictions that Euroskeptic parties would sweep the board across the EU, in the end many of the smaller far-right Euroskeptic parties didn’t win any seats. Those that did seem divided and unlikely to form a large coalition of their groups.
Turnout for the elections was 50.8%, the biggest since 1994.
How does this impact my farming business?
The groups formed in the European Parliament will have an impact on the direction of policy over the next five years. It is clear however that, at least for the coming few months, the parliament is likely to be very unpredictable. Negotiations will continue on groupings within the parliament, there will inevitably be disagreements on policy positions and given that there are so many fresh faces, new personalities could disturb old alliances.
While the centre-right and centre-left groups remain the largest in the Parliament, they are reduced in size and so their influence won’t be as sure as it has been. Increased numbers in the liberal group could therefore have a bigger impact. For example, in the past the liberal group has tended to favour open competition and free trade, which could affect how policy related to trade deals and markets is established in the future.
The green group has increased substantially and we can expect this to influence the direction of travel of agricultural and environmental policy in the coming years. With a bigger group there is also the possibility of green MEPs gaining influential positions as chairs of committees and leading roles on policy files. Their success in these elections is an indication of the growing desire among European citizens and in Brussels for more environment- and climate-focused legislation.
The UK has now elected a large number of Euroskeptic Brexit party MEPs. It is not yet clear to what extent they will take part in legislative work in the Parliament, but we must be prepared for the possibility that they will take a position of no involvement, i.e., not participating in votes or attending debates. This will make it more difficult to know what their views are regarding different policy issues and therefore how supportive of UK agriculture they will be.
The previous parliament had time to develop a consensus on Brexit amongst people who had already worked together for a long time. The class of 2019 could take a different view and new politics and personalities could but the Parliament’s previous position on Brexit under pressure.
What is the UFU doing for members?
We will be contacting Northern Ireland’s MEPs to work with them on the issues affecting local farmers. We will also be inviting them to meet with our Brussels staff to discuss upcoming agricultural policy issues. As things develop we plan to keep them informed on agri policy developments that they can influence.