After the Brexit vote, it seems likely that the next election of members to the Parliament of the European Union will not involve UK politicians. But when are the next EU elections, and how will they be impacted by the referendum result?
When do the next elections to the European Parliament occur?
The next elections to the European Parliament will take place in May or June 2019.
Elections to the European Parliament take place every five years. They happen in all EU member states. At the last election in May 2014, a total of 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were elected from the 28 member states to represent around half a billion Europeans.
The UK elected 73 MEPs in 2014, but it seems likely that this will be our last involvement in European Union elections after the result of the referendum held on Thursday 23 June 2016 saw the public vote in favour of leaving the EU.
So how will Brexit affect the EU elections?
Much depends upon when Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets in motion a country’s separation from the EU, is triggered. Prime Minister Theresa May has suggested this will occur early next year. The parties then have two years to agree the terms of the split, though this can be extended if all 27 remaining EU member states agree to it.
Holding European elections in 2019 with the UK's withdrawal from the EU would be difficult, because the position of the UK’s 73 European parliamentary seats would remain unclear. If a deal is struck in time, those seats will be dissolved or redistributed among the other 27 member states.
Are there any other complications arising from Brexit?
Most definitely. On the one hand, any negotiations which are begun now or in the near future could be significantly affected by the results of national elections across Europe over the next 18 months. For instance, the Netherlands go to the polls in March next year, France in June, and Germany in the autumn. Major changes in leadership of those nations could affect decisions that have been made regarding Brexit, prior to their elections.
On the other hand, if the UK was still technically a member of the EU at the time of its 2019 elections, any Brexit negotiations up until that point could be seriously impacted by the results, should the make-up of the European parliament change significantly.
What is likely to happen?
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has argued that exit negotiations could take up to six years. Issues include whether the UK Parliament will vote on when Article 50 is triggered, and then its agreement on our requirements, plus the time it takes for the EU to agree on its own negotiating position.
However, most of the parties involved – including Theresa May, the EU Parliament president Martin Schulz, and its lead negotiator on Brexit Guy Verhofstadt – think that an agreement is needed on UK withdrawal from the EU before its 2019 elections. Mr Verhofstadt (pictured above), previously Prime Minister of Belgium, said: "I can't imagine we start the next legislative cycle without agreement over UK withdrawal."