Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

Labour and Tories are hammered as the voters give their verdict on Brexit policies

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was a big winner in the European elections
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was a big winner in the European elections

By Jennifer McKiernan

Labour and the Conservatives' Brexit policies were dealt a hammer blow by voters in a terrible night for both parties in the European elections.

The Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats triumphed, but the scale of disaster for the main parties was laid bare as the final UK results were announced.

The Tories secured just 9.1% of the vote - their worst ever national election share - while Labour finished on 14.1%, with voters split between the clear Brexit alternatives offered by Nigel Farage's new party and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

Just four Conservatives were elected in England, Scotland and Wales, while the Brexit Party had 29 seats, overtaking the 24 MEPs that Mr Farage's former party Ukip sent to the European Parliament in 2014. The Lib Dems, reduced to just a single MEP in 2014, were on 16 after their best ever European results.

Labour had 10, halved from 20, the Greens - who also enjoyed a boost from pro-EU voters - were on seven, up from three in 2014.

It was the first time the Green Party finished above the Conservatives in a national election.

Voter turnout was the second highest for an EU election, but still low at 36.7%.

Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was a "very disappointing night" for the Conservatives.

"It shows the importance of finding a Brexit deal, and I sincerely hope these results focus minds in Parliament."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result for the SNP, which won three seats, was "historic", adding: "Scotland has spoken - we are not for Brexit."

Mr Farage said he was getting ready to fight a general election, warning that his Brexit Party could "stun everybody" if Britain had not left the EU by the next national contest.

"We're not just here to leave the European Union but to try and fundamentally change the shape of British politics, bring it into the 21st century and get a Parliament that better reflects the country," he said.

Divisions in Labour were laid bare following the results, with Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Tom Watson calling for the party to rethink its position - but Jeremy Corbyn said a general election remained his priority.

"The priority at the moment, I think, is for this Government to call for a general election and actually have a general election so we can decide the future," Mr Corbyn told reporters.

However shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir said the "only way to break the Brexit impasse" was to "go back to the public with a choice between a credible leave option and remain".

In a sign of how embarrassing the results were for Labour, the Lib Dems topped the poll in Islington, in north London - where both Mr Corbyn and Ms Thornberry are MPs.

Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt said the dire results for the Conservatives meant the party faced an "existential risk" unless it delivered Brexit.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, another potential leadership contender, said the "hugely disappointing" results were a "clear lesson" that the public wants the Government to get on with delivering Brexit.

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