Bresso: Brexit or no Brexit, MEP distribution should be clear

The European Union and the United Kingdom should set a specific arrangement on European election, Italian MEP Mercedes Bresso (S&D) said on Friday (18 January). According to the member of the Constitutional affairs committee, the rejection of the Brexit draft agreement by Westminster opens new scenarios and makes the European elections vote a matter of priority in the new negotiation rounds. As she explained, British MEPs can be revoked in case of a late exit by the UK, but it would be a problem in case London should decide not to hold elections and afterwards decide to remain.

The European Parliament and the EU Council agreed to re-distribute the MEP seats because of Brexit, but this is already turning into a boomerang for the 27 member states. The new distribution could be put in question depending on what London will decide to do.

In times when the European Commission refuses to discuss hypothetical scenarios, Bresso didn’t hesitate to answer the ‘if questions’. In case the British authorities decide not to vote and after that a subsequent new referendum should decide they are not leaving, there are no rules to govern the new situation, warned Bresso.

New allocation of seats in case of Brexit

As mentioned, last year the European Parliament voted in favor of a new allocation of seat. As a result of Brexit, it was decided to reduce the number of MEPs down to 705, 46 less than the current composition. Great Britain had until now 73 MEPs.

In other words, part of the 73 seats now given to the UK will be cut, another part will be re-distributed among the other 27 member states. According to the new rules, Italy will have 76 MEPs instead of 73.

Problems in case of remain scenario

The lack of withdrawal agreements makes the situation uncertain. It is not clear what London and Brussels could agree, if at all. The new allocation system was supposed to enter into force with the UK already officially out of the EU.

Brexit is due on 29 March, EU elections will be held between 23 and 26 May. What it supposed to happen is easy to imagine only in part, in case in spring 751 MEPs will be elected.

“If the UK will decide to extend the membership period the country may have the possibility to participate to the election”, said Bresso. “Then, in case of a Brexit after the elections, the British MEPs will end their functions and the new allocation system of seats will be activated”. It means that after Brexit “the first not-elected candidates in the various member states will be send to Brussels, according to the different national electoral laws”.

The situation would radically change in case the number of MEPs elected is 705. “The problem is in case the United Kingdom doesn’t call elections and then decides to remain. We cannot remove MEPs who are legitimately elected”, said Bresso, referring to a scenario when the European Parliament would need to make room for UK MEPs. In other words, “everything must be decided before MEPs take their seats” in the next European Parliament, she argued.

How to avoid Europe putting itself in trouble? “I think a transitory rule might be foreseen”, Bresso said.

On Tuesday a debate on Brexit is foreseen in the Constitutional affair committee with Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator of the European Parliament and chair of the Brexit Steering Group. This seems to be the right place to talk about the potential problems linked to the next European elections and the distribution of seats under different Brexit scenarios.

If the UK would decide to remain in the EU, not having conducted EU elections, it could be represented in the EP by MPs. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007, EU elections had already taken place in 2004. The two new members were not required to hold European elections, and instead sent MEPs from the ranks of the national parliaments, according to the results of the last national election.

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