Skip to main content Accessibility help

The 2019 European Parliament election in the UK

  • Benjamin Martill (a1)


This article examines the 2019 European Parliament election in the UK. The main beneficiaries were the newly formed Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats, both of which ran on clear Brexit platforms, while the Conservatives and Labour struggled to attract support. But the Brexit focus of the campaign – and the victory of parties with clear positions on these issues – belied the extent to which the election conformed to the expectations of second-order contest theory, with low turnout, declining support for the governing (Conservative) party, a surge in support for new and small parties, and scant discussion of European Union-level issues. While the vote shows realignment in the UK continues and can tell us much about the shifting politics of Brexit, we should be cautious inferring much from the victory of the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats given the second-order nature of the contest.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Adam, S and Maier, M (2011) National parties as politicizers of EU integration? Party campaign communication in the run-up to the 2009 European parliament election. European Union Politics 12, 431453.
Agnew, J (2018) Too many Scotlands? Place, the SNP, and the future of nationalist mobilization. Scottish Geographical Journal 134, 523.
Alexandre-Collier, A (2020) From rebellion to extinction: where have all the Tory Remainer MPs gone? The Political Quarterly 91, 2430.
Allen, N (2018) Brexit means Brexit’: Theresa May and post-referendum British politics. British Politics 13, 105120.
Ashcroft, MA (2017) The Lost Majority. London: Biteback.
Ashcroft, MA (2019) Euro-election post-vote poll. Ashcroft poll, 23–24 May 2019. Available at
Azmanova, A (2011) After the left–right (Dis)continuum: globalization and the remaking of Europe's ideological geography. International Political Sociology 5: 384507.
BBC News (2019 a) Brexit: Labour supports a referendum with caveats. BBC News, 30 April 2019. Available at
BBC News (2019 b) European elections 2019: Labour can unite our country, says Corbyn. BBC News, 9 May 2019. Available at
Bellamy, R (2019) Was the Brexit referendum legitimate, and would a second one be so? European Political Science 18, 126133.
Brusenbauch Meislova, M (2019) Brexit means Brexit—or does It? The legacy of theresa may's discursive treatment of Brexit. The Political Quarterly 90, 681689.
Copsey, N and Haughton, T (2014) Farewell Britannia? ‘issue capture’ and the politics of David Cameron's 2013 EU referendum pledge. Journal of Common Market Studies 52, 7489.
Corbett, R (2014) ‘European elections are second-order elections’: is received wisdom changing? Journal of Common Market Studies 52, 11941198.
Cowley, P and Kavanagh, D (2018) The election in retrospect. In Cowley, P and Kavanagh, D (eds). The British General Election of 2017. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 409448.
Curtice, J (2017) General election 2017: a new two-party politics? Political Insight 8, 48.
Curtice, J (2018) The 2017 election: Scotland re-enters British politics? Scottish Geographical Journal 134, 3944.
Curtice, J (2019) Polarised politics – The European elections in the UK. Political Insight 10, 811.
Curtice, J (2020) Brave new world: understanding the 2019 general election. Political Insight 11, 812.
Cutts, D, Goodwin, M, Heath, O and Milazzo, C (2019) Resurgent remain and a rebooted revolt on the right: exploring the 2019 European parliament elections in the United Kingdom. The Political Quarterly 90, 496514.
Cutts, D, Goodwin, M, Heath, O and Surridge, P (2020) Brexit, the 2019 general election and the realignment of British politics. The Political Quarterly 91, 723.
Davidson, N (2017) Why have there been so few protests against Brexit? The Conversation, 31 March 2017. Available at:
De Vries, CE, Van der Brug, W, Van Egmond, MH and Van der Eijk, C (2011) Individual and contextual variation in EU issue voting: the role of political information. Electoral Studies 30, 1628.
Evans, G and Mellon, J (2019) Immigration, Euroscepticism, and the rise and fall of UKIP. Party Politics 25, 7687.
Freeden, M (2016) After the Brexit referendum: revisiting populism as an ideology. Journal of Political Ideologies 22, 111.
Galpin, C and Trenz, H-J (2019) In the shadow of Brexit: the 2019 European parliament elections as first-order polity elections? The Political Quarterly 90, 661671.
Hanretty, C (2017) Areal interpolation and the UK's referendum on EU membership. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 27, 466483.
Heath, O and Goodwin, M (2017) The 2017 general election, Brexit and the return to two-party politics: an aggregate level analysis of the result. The Political Quarterly 88, 345358.
Hix, S (2018) Brexit: where is the EU-UK relationship heading? Journal of Common Market Studies 56, 1127.
Hix, S and Marsh, M (2011) Second-order effects plus pan-European political swings: an analysis of European parliament elections across time. Electoral Studies 30, 415.
Hobolt, SB (2018) Brexit and the 2017 UK general election. Journal of Common Market Studies 56, 3950.
Hobolt, SB and Rodon, T (2020) Cross-cutting issues and electoral choice. EU issue voting in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. Journal of European Public Policy 27, 227245.
Ipsos Mori (2019) EU Parliament Election Prediction Poll. Ipsos Mori poll, 20–22 May 2019. Available at
Jennings, W and Stoker, G (2017) Tilting towards the cosmopolitan axis? Political change in England and the 2017 general election. The Political Quarterly 88, 359369.
Johnston, R, Manley, D, Pattie, C and Jones, K (2018) Geographies of Brexit and its aftermath: voting in England at the 2016 referendum and the 2017 general election. Space and Polity 22, 162187.
Kettell, S and Kerr, P (forthcoming) From eating cake to crashing out: constructing the myth of a no-deal Brexit. Comparative European Politics.
Lynch, P and Whitaker, R (2018) All Brexiteers now? Brexit, the conservatives and party change. British Politics 13, 3147.
Marsh, M (1998) Testing the second-order election model after four European elections. British Journal of Political Science 28, 591607.
Martill, B and Staiger, U (forthcoming) Negotiating Brexit: the cultural sources of British hard bargaining. Journal of Common Market Studies.
Nadeau, R, Bélanger, É and Atikcan, (forthcoming) Emotions, cognitions and moderation: understanding losers’ consent in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties.
Napierala, N (2019) “This Time I'm Voting”?! – Why the European Parliament's campaign to increase voter turnout could have converse effects. Dahrendorf Forum Comment, January 2019. Available at:
Oliver, T (2015) Europe's British question: the UK–EU relationship in a changing Europe and multipolar world. Global Society 29, 409426.
Parry, K and Richardson, K (2011) Political imagery in the British general election of 2010: the curious case of ‘Nick Clegg’. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 13, 474489.
Prosser, C (2018) The strange death of multi-party Britain: the UK general election of 2017. West European Politics 41, 12261236.
Reif, K and Schmitt, H (1980) Nine second-order elections. A conceptual framework for the analysis of European election results. European Journal of Political Research 8, 344.
Schakel, AH (2015) How to analyze second-order election effects? A refined second-order election model. Comparative European Politics 13, 636655.
Schmitt, H (2005) The European parliament elections of June 2004: still second-order? West European Politics 28, 650679.
Servent, AR (2019) The European parliament after the 2019 elections: testing the boundaries of the ‘cordon sanitaire’. Journal of Contemporary European Research 15, 331342.
Sloman, P (2020) Squeezed Out? The Liberal Democrats and the 2019 general election. The Political Quarterly 91, 3542.
Staiger, U, Pagel, C and Cooper, C (2019) With No-Deal Now Leavers’ Preferred Brexit Outcome, Ruling It Out Could Create Problems For The Tories. UCL Brexit Blog, 9 April 2019. Available at:
The Guardian (2019 a) Britain will have its second referendum – at the EU elections on 23 May. The Guardian, 18 April 2019. Available at:
The Guardian (2019 b) Brexit legislation ‘paused’ after MPs reject Boris Johnson's timetable. The Guardian, 22 October 2019. Available at:
Tournier-Sol, K (2015) Reworking the Eurosceptic and conservative traditions into a populist narrative: UKIP's winning formula? Journal of Common Market Studies 53, 140156.
Treib, O (forthcoming) Euroscepticism is here to stay: what cleavage theory can teach us about the 2019 European Parliament elections. Journal of European Public Policy.
Wilson, GK (2017) Brexit, trump and the special relationship. British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19, 543557.
YouGov (2019) By 48% to 35% Britons would rather have No Deal and no Corbyn. YouGov Survey, 17 August 2019. Available at:


The 2019 European Parliament election in the UK

  • Benjamin Martill (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.