Brexit could rip support from the UK’s major parties as disillusioned voters turn to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Vince Cable’s Lib Dems in protest against Theresa May’s handling of the UK’s exit from the EU. The UK will elect 73 MEPs, using a form of proportional representation called the D’Hondt system. Results will not be announced until Sunday evening when the last polling station on the continent closes.
England is split into nine regions, with seats allocated based on population: South East England has 10 MEPs, London and North West England each have eight, East of England and the West Midlands each have seven, Yorkshire and the Humber and South West England have six each, the East Midlands has five and North East England has three.
Scotland has six MEPs, Wales four and Northern Ireland three.
Mrs May had hoped cross-party Brexit talks would deliver a compromise deal in time to allow her to call off the European Parliament elections.
READ MORE: European elections voting timetable
European elections: Britons will head to the polls today
But, more than a month after the talks began, her de facto deputy David Lidington acknowledged time was too tight to get a Withdrawal Agreement Bill through both Houses of Parliament by the date of the poll.
Downing Street conceded on Wednesday they expected a “very challenging night” when the results come through.
A spokesman said: “The PM is focused on the task at hand which is delivering the Brexit people voted for.”
When Britain does finally leave the EU, the European Parliament will reduce from 751 MEPs to 705, with 27 of the UK’s 73 seats being distributed among the remaining member states.
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READ MORE: European elections 2019 FULL GUIDE
1.44pm update: Farage sends his commiserations to OAP attacked with milkshake
The Brexit Party leader tweeted: “I’ve just phoned Don’s home to commiserate. His son said he is undeterred, still on the polling station and will now be there until 10pm tonight. Well done that man.”
It comes after the OAP was attacked with milkshake at a polling station in Aldershot.
12.39pm update: Brexit Party on course to come first – new poll
A new poll by Ipsos MORI for The Evening Standard shows the Brexit Party on course to come first in today’s European Parliament elections.
Among registered voters who say they are ‘certain to vote’, the Brexit Party is in first place with 35 percent of the vote. The Liberal Democrats follow with 20 percent and 15 percent say they will vote for the Labour Party. The Green Party and Conservatives trail with 10 percent and 9 percent of the vote respectively.
Headline voting intention figures (based on registered voters who say they are certain to vote)
Brexit Party 35 percent
Liberal Democrats 20 percent
Labour 15 percent
Green 10 percent
Conservative 9 percent
UKIP 3 percent
Change UK 3 percent
Others 6 percent
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,527 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone between May 20 and 22.
European elections: A Brexit Party supporting pensioner has been hit with milkshake
12.16pm update: Weird and wonderful polling stations
Some constituents in Hove will cast their votes at West Blatchington Windmill, while a group of Leicestershire electors will head to a farm in Garthorpe to fill in their ballot slip inside a caravan.
In Hampshire, Petersfield Used Car Centre opened its doors as a polling station for the day.
11.58am update: Piers Morgan reacts to milkshake attack on pensioner
He tweeted: “This elderly gentleman served in the British armed forces for 22 years.
“Today he was manning a Brexit Party polling station when he was attacked & had milkshake thrown all over him.
“All because he wants the result of a democratic referendum to be honoured. Disgusting.”
11.36am update: Polling station evacuated over suspect package
A Twitter user posted: “Just had the police at the door. A suspect package has been found at the polling station, so they’ve shut down the whole street. strange times.”
11.18am update: Farage fury at milkshake thrower
The Brexit Party leader slammed “disgusting behaviour” after one of his supporters was hit with milkshake.
He posted on Twitter: “Yet more disgusting behaviour. When democracy fails, civility ends. Let’s get Brexit done and finish this.”
11am update: Brexit Party supporting pensioner hit with milkshake
The unnamed man was left covered in the gloopy, pink liquid on Thursday morning.
Passer-by Lucy Blackman posted it on social media.
She said: “This poor man was covered with milkshake this morning by a disrespectful yob.
“Whatever you are voting, it’s a democracy. We should be able to have a say without acts of violence.
“This could have been acid or anything. What has this country come to.”
Lucy said she witnessed the aftermath of the attack in Aldershot, Hants.
She added: “I arrived just after, he seemed shocked.
“He just told me to watch out for the milkshake on the floor so my children didn’t slip.”
European elections: Farage cases his vote in Biggins Hill
10.59am update: Nigel Farage casts vote
The Brexit Party leader was pictured waving and putting thumbs up to the cameras in Biggin Hill.
9.57am update: May’s leadership hanging by a thread on day of EU elections
The chairman of the powerful Conservative 1922 Committee, which can make or break prime ministers, told MPs that Mrs May planned to campaign in the European poll on Thursday before meeting with the group on Friday to discuss her leadership.
The Times reported that the Tory leader would name a date for her departure on Friday.
But she will remain= as prime minister while her successor is elected in a two-stage process,
1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady said: “I will be meeting the prime minister on Friday following her campaigning in the European elections tomorrow and following that meeting I will be consulting with the 1922 executive.”
European elections: Vince Cable arrives with his wife Rachel Smith
9.42am update: Lib Dem leader casts his vote in Twickenham
Vince Cable arrived holding hands with his wife Rachel Smith.
The Lib Dem leader has been the face of an anti-Brexit campaign with the slogan “b******* to Brexit”.
9.31am update: Europhile Netherlands on brink as populist poised for European elections upset
Dutch voters face a choice between the stagnating status quo or an exciting populist approach that threatens to bring an end to 25 years of liberal dominance.
Thierry Baudet, leader of the Forum for Democracy, has seen a meteoric rise through politics since emerging almost three years ago.
His party are neck and neck with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy.
European elections: Dutch Leader of Forum for Democracy Thierry Baudet casts his vote
European elections: Dutch voters cast their vote in the EU elections
9.28am update: Sturgeon arrives at polling station
The SNP leader waved to the cameras as she visited Broomhouse Community Hall in Glasgow with her husband Peter Murrell to cast her vote.
Ms Sturgeon had earlier tweeted a picture of a pin badge she was wearing of the Scottish saltire and EU flag.
Scots are going to the polls to elect the country’s six MEPs, with party leaders amongst those turning out to vote.
European elections: Sturgeon arrives in Glasgow to cast her vote
9.09am update: Dogs at polling stations
As voters head to the polls, many are taking their four-legged friends along, and it makes for adorable photos.
European elections: Dog Abbie sits outside a polling station in the UK
European elections: Corbyn has arrived with his wife Laura Alvarez
8.59am update: Netherlands says Europe is ‘splintering’
Sybrand Buma, and EPP member and the outgoing leader of Christian Democratic Appeal said Dutch politics was “fragmented”, as seen across the EU
He said: “In the long run, you see in the Netherlands the same change as in most European countries — of a splintering” of the landscape.”
8.52am update: Corbyn arrives at polling station
The Labour leader arrived at the polling station at Pakeman primary school in Holloway with his wife Laura Alvarez.
8.45am update: Farage taunted as milkshakes handed out at his polling station
A ‘free milkshakes’ stand has been erected at a polling station in Farage’s South East England constituency, in Kent, where he is standing as an MEP.
The stand was installed by plant-powered drinks brand Plenish after the Brexit Party leader was hit by a milkshake earlier this week.
European elections: Corbyn at a polling station in London
8.34am update: Change UK runs up huge advertising bill on Facebook
The pro-EU party, formerly known as the Independent Group, launched a last-minute campaign on the social media site, costing £87,000.
The adverts begun in the seven days up until Wednesday, making Change UK the biggest single political advertiser on Facebook.
8.18am update: Change UK leader admits she was close to quitting
Heidi Allen said she was “very troubled” by a row over tactical voting and would have “absolutely advised tactical voting” if the decision was up to her.
Some pro-remain campaigners are advocating tactical voting as a means of maximising their challenge to Nigel Farage’s surging Brexit Party in the European elections.
Ms Allen was asked by Channel 4 News if she had threatened to quit as Change UK leader over an internal dispute over whether to publicly back the Liberal Democrats outside London and the South East.
She said: “Yes. I did. I am very, very troubled by this. This is a massive decision for a party to take. Had it been left to me, I would have absolutely advised tactical voting.”
Ms Allen, who left the Conservative Party to join other breakaway Tory and Labour MPs, said the majority view was that “they didn’t want to go that way”.
She added: “But it is something that still troubles me. I have no doubt that the British public will look at the tactical voting websites out there and make their own decisions.”