What really happened at the Euro-elections?

Reading the media coverage, you would have thought the forces of Leave led by the Brexit Party had swept to victory. The Remoaners had been routed. However, taking a look at three key indicators, the truth is more complicated.

The BBC has looked at three key indicators – seats won, vote share, and vote share change (there’s a pretty graphic here but it’s without Northern Ireland. So let’s use these three indicators to tell us what really happened.

On vote share, the picture isn’t clear in Great Britain. You’ve probably seen the likes of this being shared around the internet:

Even allowing for the exclusion of Northern Ireland (which we shouldn’t, congrats to Naomi Long and the Alliance), I’m not impressed by this. The problem is both sides are treating votes for parties as if they were blocks.  A small minority of Lib Dems want to leave.  Even a few protest voting Brexiters want to Remain!  Professor John Curtis observes this is particular problem with one third of SNP voters wishing to leave.

So, we can draw no clear conclusion here.  It depends how you want to calculate the figures.

The second indicator is vote share change.  This gets interesting as we have a previous election to compare to – the European elections in 2014.

By adding up how much the vote for parties that support leave versus parties that support Remain we can get a figure to show which side is gaining or losing ground. The results are startling: the Leave side are down 13.8% in UK, whilst Remain are up 18.7% Take one from the other and you get a swing of 15.3% (source for figures).

15% is a nice clear figure that Lib Dems could easily put on their thank you leaflets whilst showing the number of seats they gained (+16).

Finally, we should take a look at whether the MEPs elected support Leave or Remain. This is important – the European Parliament will get to vote on any final deal.

On the Leave side, there are 29 Brexit Party MEPs. Add in 3 out of 4 Tories (one votes for Remain: Anthea McIntyre – see here – and 1 for the DUP.  There is also 1 Labour Party MEP that refused to sign Labour’s Remain pledge (Nina Gill – see here.  That’s 34 for Leave.

On the Remain side, there are 16 Lib Dems, 7 Greens, 3 SNP, 1 Plaid Cymru, 1 Alliance, and 1 Sinn Fein.  There’s also 1 Remain Tory (see above).  The Labour party looks problematic until Labour sources confirmed that 9 out of their 10 MEPs signed this:

Which means 39 Remain.

This means that the UK elected 39 Remain MEPs, and 34 Leave MEPs. Which works out as follows: Remain 53% and Leave 47% (see pie chart at the start of this post).

This means Remain won when it comes to actual MEPs, by a small majority.

Another useful graphic to put on a thank you leaflet (you’ve all got those printed now for delivery, right?).

* Simon Foster is a lecturer in Politics and Economics, and has published 23 books on Politics, PSHE and Citizenship.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Becket 12th Jun '19 - 1:48pm

    And by the time we have had weeks of charlatan Tories making promises from cloud cuckoo land we are like to have more electors wanting to stop this nonsense and get on with solving our real problems.

  • nigel hunter 12th Jun '19 - 3:18pm

    Why was NI not included in this? It is part of the UK and would then give a clearer figure of the situation.. Anybody can fiddle numbers around to make a case. With NI in the figures a more ACCURATE result of the WHOLE uk could be seen.One SF counted? where is the Alliance? % of vote leave v remain in NI?

  • What really happened at the EU elections , after nearly three years of constant coverage, was mostly voter apathy. Over 60 per cent of the electorate did not bother voting’ The concept of Europe generates little real enthusiasm

  • A recent pience in the New Statesman suggests that, vocal minorities apart, Remainers care more about remaining than Leavers do about leaving.

    It’s something Tory leadership candidates might like to think about; they must not only navigate their membership electorate in the very near future but sometime thereafter, the national electorate. If, as it appears, that already tilts to Remain then, if anything goes ‘wrong’ with Brexit compared with the promises (it will!), the Tories are toast.


  • Richard Underhill 12th Jun '19 - 5:16pm

    At PMQ on 12/6/19 Theresa May announced that although she is resigning as PM she is not resigning as an MP, which is different from David Cameron.
    Tim Farron MP wanted cross-party talks AND ACTION on social care. Theresa May’s reply was the usual negative (despite what she initially said on the steps of 10 Downing Street). The government will produce a green paper, but no timetable attached and no funding yet.
    Tim Farron sat down with a sigh.

  • Simon Foster 12th Jun '19 - 5:24pm

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    David, Glenn and Gordon – I agree with each of the points you are making.

    Glenn – the turnout is largely in line with previous European elections.

    Nigel – I think the BBC didn’t include Northern Ireland because the results weren’t out then. However, the swing figure I’ve included all the Northern Ireland parties polling above 0.1% of the vote.

    How MEPs would vote: I have included all 3 Northern Ireland MEPs.

    So the second and third indicators I’m looking at in the article are figures for the entire UK including Northern Ireland.

    One other point to clarify: This article is written in a personal capacity and does not represent the views of where I lecture, nor any of the educational publishers I write for.

  • So who is putting an accord with the Greens ahead of talking to a handful of political has-beens in CUK?

  • Bernard Aris 12th Jun '19 - 8:27pm

    @nigel hunter

    Well Norther Ireland isn’t a part of the UK whose incvlusion would necessaryli clarify things.

    For starters: The physical side of the “troubles” may have all but vanished, but the “Protestant-Canholic // Unionist-Nationalist” mutual mistrust and point-scoring is alive and kicking as if the Reverend Ian “Never, Never, Never” Paisley is still alive. Worse, since he and Martin McGuiness died, the mistrust between Sinn Fein and DUP leaders has grown, hardened. A piece of “Green policy” and Gaelic speaking lessons in schools (Point scoring!) were excuses to exclude each other from devolved government.

    It is also not for nothing that the Alliance Party, the only one with serious thinking about EU politics, had only now (after 40 years) been able to elect a MEP.

    And NI excluding both abortion and gay marriage (embraced in Ireland!) does NOT sound like modern Britain, you must agree.

  • Michael Sammon 13th Jun '19 - 12:05am

    Probably the best article I have read interpreting the EU Parliament elections. Thanks.

  • Simon Foster 13th Jun '19 - 7:13am

    Thanks Michael.

    Thr only other point I would add is that the parties who had the clearest message on either side of the debate performed the best. I think that’s self evident.

  • Prof Chris Hanretty has calculated the nominal results from the Euros by Westminster constituency https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/ep2019-results-mapped-onto-westminster-constituencies-8a2a6ed14146

    The Lib Dem “gains” (sorted by party we gain off, majority over nominal second party and with the second party listed)

    From Con:

    Witney Conservative 0.3% Brexit
    Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner Conservative 0.9% Brexit
    Croydon South Conservative 1.1% Brexit
    Romsey and Southampton North Conservative 1.6% Brexit
    Rushcliffe Conservative 1.7% Brexit
    Watford Conservative 1.7% Brexit
    Chesham and Amersham Conservative 1.8% Brexit
    Hendon Conservative 1.8% Labour
    Kenilworth and Southam Conservative 2.2% Brexit
    Mole Valley Conservative 3.1% Brexit
    Hexham Conservative 3.1% Brexit
    South East Cambridgeshire Conservative 3.3% Brexit
    Wokingham Conservative 3.9% Brexit
    Chipping Barnet Conservative 4.9% Brexit
    Wantage Conservative 5.6% Brexit
    Sutton and Cheam Conservative 5.6% Brexit
    Woking Conservative 6.4% Brexit
    South West Surrey Conservative 6.8% Brexit
    Maidenhead Conservative 7.0% Brexit
    Henley Conservative 8.0% Brexit
    South West Hertfordshire Conservative 8.8% Brexit
    Altrincham and Sale West Conservative 8.9% Brexit
    Cheltenham Conservative 9.7% Brexit
    Esher and Walton Conservative 9.7% Brexit
    Cheadle Conservative 10.2% Brexit
    Guildford Conservative 12.0% Brexit
    Winchester Conservative 12.9% Brexit
    South Cambridgeshire Conservative 18.0% Brexit
    Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative 18.3% Brexit
    Finchley and Golders Green Conservative 18.9% Labour
    St Albans Conservative 20.0% Brexit
    Chelsea and Fulham Conservative 21.0% Brexit
    Cities of London and Westminster Conservative 22.4% Brexit
    Wimbledon Conservative 28.2% Brexit
    Putney Conservative 28.2% Brexit
    Richmond Park Conservative 42.6% Brexit

  • Richard O'Neill 13th Jun '19 - 2:20pm

    I was always sceptical that the European Elections could be seen as a de facto second referendum and the low turnout and the confused methodology of working out who won (by MEPS elected, by vote share, which party counts as what?) have proved that to be the case.

    All that is clear, sadly, is that the two populist extremes of no dealers and hard remainers have surged in momentum in recent months, and that the country could still be said to be split down the middle with no prospect of resolution in sight.

  • Very interesting and academic, Michael, but if you think the Lib Dems are going to gain the Cities of London & Westminster in a General Election you’d better go on a diet of hats right now. Transposing the EU election results onto a UK General Election is as realistic as a Harry Potter novel but I suppose it keeps academics with a bit of spare time out of mischief.

    I notice no gains from Labour so are you assuming a Corbyn Government with SNP as the maon opposition ? And whatever happened to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ? They do exist you know despite the Lib Dem fixation with the Home Counties.

    My prediction is the Brexit party will melt away in the heat of a General Election for the House of Commons – just as they did in Peterborough. Whether the Lib Dem leadership hopefuls can survive an Andrew Neill grilling on, for example funding donations from Frackers remains to be seen. It’s a tough old world.

  • Hi Michael,

    thank you for the list of Westminster seats “won” in the Euros.

    However, you have missed out many!! including very pertinently Streatham!!

  • Simon Foster 14th Jun '19 - 9:49am

    @Michael 1 – Prof Hanretty’s projection is an interesting exercise, but I’m inclined to agree with Dave. General Elections tend to have a 65%+ or more turnout, close to double that of the Euros. They’re a good indicator of what seats may be vulnerable, but the actuality will be very different.

    Having said that, the Lib Dem chances of winning Streatham (nice one Chris!) just went way up last night.

    Richard – my article was designed to bring some clarity. There are, at the end of the day, 39 Remain MEPs elected v 34 Leave MEPs from the UK in 2019.


    What that means we can all argue about…

  • Simon Foster 14th Jun '19 - 9:27pm

    On the subject of facts, I’m being informed that the last Labour MEP should now be counted as Remain, and the last Conservative MEP should be in fact counted as leave. Whilst I can’t edit the article, the numbers on each side remain (pun intended) the same.

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