VIDEO: UK results in the EU election bear out predictions of victory for the Brexit Party (ABC News)
Parties committed to strengthening the European Union have held on to two-thirds of seats in the EU Parliament, official projections from the bloc’s weekend elections show, though far-right and nationalist opponents saw strong gains.
In the UK, partial results showed Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party storming to victory, riding a wave of anger at the failure of Prime Minister Theresa May to take Britain out of the European Union.
Across England and Wales, voters turned away from Mrs May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn, which had sought a softer version of Brexit.
The Conservative Party was on course for one of its worst results in a nationwide election ever.
The Brexit Party came first while explicitly pro-EU parties — the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Change UK — were, combined, a few percentage points behind.
In total, Britain will elect 73 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) to the 751-seat parliament.
Mr Farage is expected to be elected as an MEP for his single-issue party, launched just weeks ago.
He said the results meant he had earned a seat at the Brexit negotiations.
“We want to be part of that negotiating team,” he said.
“If we don’t leave on October 31 then the score that you have seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election, and we are getting ready for it.”
With results announced early on Monday for all of England and Wales, the Brexit Party had won 28 seats and almost a third of the votes.
The Liberal Democrats took about 20 per cent of the vote and 15 seats — up from only one at the last EU election in 2014.
Labour came third with 10 seats, followed by the Greens with seven.
PHOTO: The future of Brexit is still uncertain. (AP: Frank Augstein)
The ruling Conservatives were in fifth place with just three EU seats and under 10 per cent of the vote.
Scotland and Northern Ireland are due to announce their results later.
Conservative Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
It was a “painful result” and warned there was an “existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done”.
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU, it remains a member and its politicians are still arguing over how, when or even whether the country will leave the club it joined in 1973.
A tearful Mrs May quit on Friday, saying it was a matter of deep regret that she had been unable to deliver Brexit and arguing that the decision of the 2016 referendum should be honoured.
Mr Farage, who as UKIP leader convinced Mrs May’s predecessor, David Cameron, to call the Brexit referendum and then helped lead the campaign to leave the EU, has said that if Brexit is not implemented then Britain will be shown not to be a democracy.
Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson — who had milkshakes thrown over him twice during the campaign — failed to secure a seat in the North West region, attracting just 2.2 per cent of the vote, according to the BBC.
Populist parties set to pick up seats
PHOTO: The EU elections have historically had a low turnout. (AP via MTI: Zsolt Czegledi)
The European Union’s traditional centre splintered in the hardest-fought European Parliament elections in decades, with the far right and pro-environment Greens gaining ground after four days of a polarised vote.
Turnout was at a two-decade high over the balloting across the 28 European Union countries.
The elections were seen as a test of the influence of the nationalist, populist and hard-right movements that have swept the continent in recent years
In France, an electorate that voted Emmanuel Macron into presidential office in 2017 did an about-face and the party of his defeated opponent, Marine Le Pen, drew into first place.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition saw a drastic loss in support to the Greens and, to a lesser extent, the far right.
Italy’s League party, led by Matteo Salvini, claimed 32 per cent of the vote in early projections, compared with around 6 per cent five years ago.
PHOTO: Greeks could be back at the ballot box within weeks. (Reuters: Costas Baltas)
Meanwhile, in Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called snap national elections after suffering a heavy defeat by the opposition conservatives.
Spain’s Socialists won most of the votes in European and local elections in a boost to their ambitions to target a top EU job in Brussels.
Catalan separatist leaders Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras both won EU seats, but with question marks over whether they can become EU MPs.
Provisional results from Austria showed a big win for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right party, days after a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party brought down his governing coalition.
VIDEO: France far right National Rally expects EU election win (ABC News)
High turnout as EU faces a raft of challenges
About half of the 400 million eligible voters cast their ballots, the first time turnout has risen in four decades of continent-wide voting, according to estimates.
It represents the world’s second-largest democracy by population after India, drawing together all 27 member states and outgoing member the United Kingdom.
A European Parliament official estimated an average turnout of 51 per cent for 27 of the 28 EU states — all except the UK, which had a 37 per cent turnout.
Turnout in the last European elections in 2014 hit a historic low of below 43 per cent.
The increased enthusiasm was seen by some commentators as a response to challenges ranging from climate change to the rise of Eurosceptic parties, in an election that will define whether the bloc pursues further integration or gets stymied by heightening nationalism between members.