Brexit sees far-right bloc pip Greens at European Parliament

FILE PHOTO: A British Union Jack flag is seen Brussels, Belgium , 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Brexit has left the relative composition of the European Parliament relatively unchanged, with one notable exception: the far-right Identity and Democracy group has become the fourth-largest grouping at the expense of the Greens.

The MEP’s composition has changed through the departure of Britain’s 73 MEPs, as well as the allocation of additional EP seats to 14 member states. Nevertheless, the total number of MEPs has decreased from 751 – the maximum allowed under EU treaties – to 705.

As the smallest country by population, Malta is not one of these 14 countries: with a seat for approximately 80,000 inhabitants, Maltese voters already have the greatest influence in the EP.

France and Spain have been assigned 5 additional seats, Italy and the Netherlands have been assigned 3, Ireland has been assigned 2 whereas Poland, Romania, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Croatia and Estonia have each been assigned an additional seat. Estonia, whose population is approximately triple that of Malta, had the same number of EP seats until Brexit.

The new post-Brexit MEPs were elected at the European elections last May.

The departure of British MEPs and the election of new ones have inevitably changed the sizes of political groups, and the biggest winner, perhaps inevitably, was the centre-right European Political Party the PN belongs to. No British MEPs had formed part of the bloc – the Conservative Party had left the EPP in 2009, leaving it with no significant representation in the UK – and the EPP has gained 5 MEPs through the seats assigned to other member states.

The second-largest grouping – the Socialist & Democrats group the Labour Party belongs to – ended up with 148 seats, a net loss of 6 seats due to the loss of 10 MEPs from the UK’s Labour Party. Despite losing six seats, its proportion of seats has increased from 20.5% to 21%.

The liberal Renew Europe group is the biggest loser, with a net loss of 11 seats as a result of the departure of the 16 Liberal Democrat MEPs. Its proportion of seats has fallen from 14.4% to 13.8%, but with 97 seats it remains, by a comfortable margin, the third-largest group.

The Greens group lost fewer seats, but perhaps more crucially, lost its status as the fourth biggest-group through a net loss of 7 seats, ending up with 67 seats. Ten British MEPs had formed part of the group – 7 affiliated with the Green Party, 3 with the Scottish National Party and 1 with Plaid Cymru.

Meanwhile, the far-right ID, which had no British MEPs, gained three seats through other member states to end up with 76.

The right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists group lost the Conservative Party’s four MEPs to end up with 62, while the left-wing GUE/NGL group remained with 40 seats, as the loss of a Sinn Féin MEP was compensated with the gain of another.

The number of MEPs unaffiliated with any political group, the so-called “non-inscrits” was slashed from 53 to 27 due to the loss of 30 British MEPs. 29 formed part of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, while another belonged to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.