A mammoth counting operation has got underway in the UK as European election votes are tallied up in what is expected to be a sensational victory for the Brexit Party.
Ballot boxes have started to be emptied with polls predicting that Nigel Farage’s hardline Eurosceptic movement will thrash the two mainstream parties whose vote share is poised to collapse.
Britain went to the polls on Thursday but the results will remain a secret until 10pm at the earliest so that the outcome does not influence voters in other European nations who are still casting their ballots.
Yorkshire and the Humber region is expected to declare its result first at around 11pm tonight and will be quickly followed by the Eastern and East Midlands areas.
Projections show that turnout has increased to up 38 per cent, an increase of two per cent from 2014, and suggest the Brexit Party will return the most amount of MEPs to Brussels.
These elections were not meant to happen in the UK but the delay to the Brexit departure date meant that Britain is required to send a new batch of politicians to the EU Parliament.
A Britain Elects forecast this evening put the Brexit Party’s projected MEP haul at 24, followed by the Lib Dems at 15 and Labour at 14.
And it a bad night for the governing Conservative Party who will likely receive a drubbing and return only 10 MEPs – down nine from 2014.
Millions of stuffed ballot boxes have started to be emptied with polls predicting that Nigel Farage’s hardline Eurosceptic movement will thrash the two mainstream parties whose vote share is poised to collapse (Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire pictured)
Counting begins for the East Midlands region at the European Parliamentary elections count at the Kettering Conference Centre
Election staff making piles of ballot papers as they count the votes for the European Elections
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is expected to dominate the elections taking away swathes of Tory voters. Pictured: Staff counting votes in Birmingham
Countdown: The announcement of the results is just hours away as staff begin counting at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham
Ballot papers for The Brexit Party are collected as counting begins for the East Midlands region
Counting of votes for the European election gets under way at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre
The last poll before Britons voted put Farage’s Brexit Party on 37%, the Lib Dems in second on 19, Labour on 13%, the Greens on 12% and the Conservatives in fifth on 7%.
What time will the results likely be announced in the UK?
East Midlands: 11.30pm Sunday (11.20pm in 2014)
Eastern: 11.30pm Sunday (10.30pm in 2014)
London: 2am Monday (3.06am in 2014)
North East: 10.30am Sunday (10.15am in 2014)
North West: 12.30am Monday (12.24am in 2014)
Scotland: 11am Monday (12.35pm in 2014).
Wales: 12.01am Monday (11.38pm Sunday in 2014)
South East: 1am Monday (12.46pm in 2014)
South West: 11.00pm Sunday (11.38pm in 2014)
West Midlands: 12.01am Monday (12.30am in 2014)
Yorkshire & the Humber: 11pm Sunday (11.28pm in 2014)
Farage has also called himself a ‘king maker’ in the Conservative Party leadership battle.
The Brexit Party leader claimed that leadership hopefuls would have to earn his support if they wanted to be in with a chance of winning.
Speaking to Fox News he said that the new Prime Minister would have to accept the Brexiteer’s policy of a no-deal Brexit.
He boasted that his success at the European Parliament elections would set him up as a kingmaker in the heated contest.
‘On Sunday night, we get the results of the European elections. The Conservative Party will get less than 10 percent of the vote.
‘The Brexit Party which I founded six weeks ago is expected to top the polls with 35 percent.
‘Whoever the Conservatives choose, whether it’s Boris or not, without my support they won’t win the next election.’
Farage’s former party Ukip – which won the last European election in 2014 – will likely get hammered and could fail to return any of their MEPs.
Each counting station will be presided over by a Returning Officer who will then pass the result to the Regional Returning Officer for the announcement.
But while some smaller regions will declare the results on Sunday night and in the early hours of Monday, the larger and sparsely populated regions are likely to still be counting the following day.
In the UK, there are 12 electoral regions: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, East Midlands, Eastern, London, North East, North West, South East, South West, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
These regions will return a total of 73 MEPs who will sit in the 751-strong European Parliament in Brussels.
On Friday, votes were counted faced-down to gauge turnout but tonight they are being officially added up and stacked by party
Voting slips are counted in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. Wales represents one of the 12 regions which the UK electorate is divided into
Volunteers begin to tally the voting slips in Sunderland, which is part of the North East umbrella region. An Electoral Commission forecast this evening put the Brexit Party’s projected MEP haul at 24, followed by the Lib Dems at 15 and Labour at 14
Ballot boxes are unsealed in Sunderland as counting begins. On Friday, the boxes were sealed in front of candidates before being driven from polling stations to local counting centres
Counting staff in Edinburgh take a well-earned break and pick up meal bags as the adding up operation is expected to continue well into the night
Estimates from Number Cruncher Politics UK revealed that national turnout was up by around 38 per cent.
Some of the strongest increases were where the Green Party did best in 2014, however it also appeared that turnout in Labour held areas had been worse.
The analysis from Number Cruncher Politics shows where people are turning up to vote and also revealed that turnout was weakest in areas where UKIP was strongest in 2014.
‘Most of UKIP’s 2014 voters will have voted for someone else this time, but this may be some less good news for the Brexit Party (though to be clear, this does NOT mean that they won’t win)’.
It also stated that the pattern wasn’t clear when it came to where the Conservative’s strengths were.
After all the votes are counted, the talk it set to continue until Tuesday next week, when all leaders will meet in Brussels for a dinner.
They will debate their next move over the course of the dinner which is set to be attended by leaders from the 28 states.
It is likely that they will rally to appoint people who are pro-EU and are inline with their current values.
Number Crunch UK said: ‘A slight (though weak) positive correlation between Tory strength last time and turnout change – but they may, of course be voting for the Brexit Party or Lib Dems.’
The Parliament’s size is intended to be reduced to 705 in the 2019–2024 legislature after 46 of the UK’s seats are removed following Brexit, and the rest are shared out among unrepresented countries.
Throughout June the elected candidates will negotiate to form political groupings to sit with in the Parliament, before beginning the new ninth term on July 2.
The European Parliament is the legislative body of the European Union that votes on laws proposed by the un-elected Commission.
Because the UK was originally meant to leave the bloc on March 29, Euro elections were only scheduled at the last minute when outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May failed to push her Brexit deal through the Commons.
It comes as more and more Tory MPs continue to announce their bid for the top job.
With Michael Gove now also having announced his candidacy for the position with a veiled attack on old rival and front runner Boris Johnson.
In what has been perceived as a stab at the former Mayor, the Environment Secretary claimed that he is more ‘capable’ and said the next leader cannot just ‘respect’ the vote but must have the ‘wherewithal to deliver it’.
What happens once polling stops across Europe?
How and when are the votes counted, and when will we get a glimpse of the result in the European elections?
4PM: Exit polls from Germany should start to offer some clues as to who is in the lead – as it is the biggest country in Europe
6PM: Further exit polls from Spain and France will follow, providing a clearer picture
7PM: The European Parliament publish publish a first projection for all seats based on exit polls in 12 countries. After 7PM it will then include results from Poland, as and when they are available
9PM: Another projection will be published once the votes have been counted in Italy
10.15PM: Provisional results expected from the European Parliament
Monday 27 May: Parties discuss results, with the leaders of the four pro EU groups set to meet in the evening to agree a push to have one of their own appointed EU chief executive
Tuesday 28 May: Parliament’s Conference of Presidents meet in the morning
3PM: National leaders meet in Brussels to debate their next move
The Conservative Party leadership contest has redrawn old battle lines as Michael Gove announced his candidacy by making a sly stab at front runner Boris Johnson
In what has been perceived as a stab at the former London Mayor (pictured), the Environment Secretary said that the next leader cannot just ‘respect’ the Brexit vote but must have the ‘wherewithal to deliver it’
Le Pen calls for ‘powerful’ far-right group in EU Parliament amid predictions of gains for fringe parties across Europe
France’s Marine Le Pen has called for a ‘powerful’ far-right lobby in the European Parliament after exit polls showed her on course to win the contest in France.
The populist leader declared a ‘victory for the French people’ as early estimates showed her set to defeat President Emmanuel Macron’s party – amid predictions of a populist surge across the continent.
As exit polls start to come in from across the 28-nation ballot, the major parties were embarrassed in Germany as exit polls showed Angela Merkel’s CDU slumped to 28 per cent.
Her SPD coalition partners fell behind the Greens – while also losing control of the state of Bremen for the first time in 73 years – and the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was set to make gains.
Exit polls in the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ native France show Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in front with 23.2 per cent, President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party just behind with 21.9 per cent and The Greens with 12.8 per cent
Germany’s Carsten Meyer-Heder, of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) is pictured getting make-up done as exit polls in the EU’s biggest country show his party facing the worst EU election result in its history with 28%
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte (R) greet well-wishers a they leave a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France, on Sunday voting in European parliamentary elections following months of anti-Macron protests
Supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party watch as the exit polls come in, they show an improved result for AFD since their first election in 2014 – with 10.5 per cent of the vote
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is expected to remain the largest party in the EU Parliament with 173 of 751 seats, according to the first European Parliament estimate.
But Eurosceptic parties are expected to perform strongly across the continent – while environmentalist party leaders are also hailing a possible ‘green wave’ in Europe.
The European of Nations and Freedom group, which combines populist and far-right parties in countries like France and Italy, is tipped to secure 57 seats, up 20 from five years ago.
Declaring victory in France, Le Pen said the expected result ‘confirms the new nationalist-globalist division’ in France and beyond.
She immediately expressed hope the election could foreshadow her party’s victory in France’s 2022 presidential election, after she lost out to Macron in 2017.
Macron has been under severe pressure in recent months amid long-running and often violent Yellow Vest protests against his government.
But the score of the National Rally, if confirmed, would represent a mixed picture for the 50-year-old Le Pen: her party might end up losing ground since European elections in 2014 when it finished top with 24.9 per cent.
In a first reaction to the exit polls, an aide to Macron called the results as indicated by the exit polls ‘respectable’ and suggested there would be no major policy changes as a result.
Supporters of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party wave French flags after exit polls showed their party on top in France
Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Joerg Meuthen reacts to the first exit polls in Berlin, which showed his party making gains compared to 2014
Supporters of the New Democracy opposition party, which has made significant gains over the ruling Syriza watch the exit polls results in central Athens
Hungary’s prime minister said he hoped the European Parliament election would bring a shift toward political parties that want to stop migration.
Viktor Orban was expected to win around 56 per cent of the vote, state television reported, with the Socialists and leftist Democratic Coalition far behind.
Speaking after casting his vote in Budapest, Orban said the issue of migration ‘will reorganize the political spectrum in the European Union.’
Orban, whose Fidesz party had its membership in the Europe-wide EPP suspended because of concerns about Hungary’s democracy, said Fidesz would want to stay in the EPP only if it can influence the group’s future strategy.
In the UK Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party are expected to secure a historic victory when votes are counted from 10pm this evening, crushing the Tories after months of chaos over Britain’s withdrawal.
An exit poll in Poland shows the nationalist conservative ruling Law and Justice party as the biggest vote-getter in the country’s European Parliament election, with more than 42 per cent of the vote.
In Italy Matteo Salvini’s far-right League is also expected to poll well, and exit polls have indicated the Flemish far-right is set for a strong showing in Belgium.
Hungarian leader Viktor Orban speaks to the press after voting in Budapest. Exit polls predicted he would win the election
However, Eurosceptics were not on the march everywhere. In Romania, pro-European parties inflicted a serious defeat on the country’s ruling Social Democrats, exit polls suggest.
Early projections suggest Green politicians will secure 71 seats in the 751-seat parliament, up from 52 seats five years ago, with good results for environmentalists in France, Germany and Ireland.
The Green co-leader in the assembly, Ska Keller, says ‘the green wave has really spread all over Europe and for us that is a fantastic result.’
In Germany, the Greens were set to almost double their support, reaching more than 20 per cent and taking second place ahead of the SPD.
In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was ‘invigorated’ by a projection showing a big win for his centre-right party after a week in which his governing coalition collapsed.
Projections pointed to Kurz’s center-right People’s Party finishing well ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats in the European Parliament vote. It also shows Kurz’s former coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party, a distant third.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pictured during a meeting after European Parliament elections at the Austrian People’s Party
Government officials in Greece played down their exit polls, with the New Democracy Party emerging with an 8.5 per cent lead over the ruling party Syriza.
The socialist Movement for Change is projected to win around seven to nine per cent while the extreme right Golden Dawn and the Communist party are expected to get between five and seven per cent each.
Several hundred protesters wearing yellow vests marched in protest of social injustices in their home countries in Brussels earlier today while others sporting black hoods taunted authorities.
Police on horseback patrolled the historic centre and scuffles broke out in different areas and several people were detained.
Belgium is holding a general election on Sunday as well as the European elections.
The full European results are coming in overnight with some 427million people eligible to vote.