Brexiteers in the United Kingdom often predicted that other countries would follow suit once the UK leaves the European Union. Some even predicted the end of the project altogether. Half a year after the official Brexit date, there is no evidence that voters in other EU countries have changed their minds on parties exhibiting euroscepticism. If anything, the effect has been almost opposite: The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the political debate, and political parties that could be classified as ‘pro-EU’ have gained momentum. A German or French Brexit party is not on the horizon.
Europe Elects’ projection offers data to understand the overall trends in the political mood in the European Union. The monthly projection shows how voters in the European Union would vote, should there be an EU Parliament election today. When comparing seats and popular vote projected to the election result in this article, we contrast them to the EU27 scenario—meaning we exclude the United Kingdom.
Overall, political parties that are generally in favour of EU integration—parties belonging to EPP, S&D, Greens/EFA, and RE parliamentary groups—have increased their overall vote share since Brexit on the continent from 60.0% to 62.2%. Political parties from the right who generally oppose further EU integration—ECR and ID parties—have declined at the same time from 22.2% to 20.5%. However, it needs to be noted that only a small fraction of ECR and ID parties would actually support their country to leave the EU, generally preferring to modify it towards a more country-centric vision.
Looking more in detail, our projection in August 2020 shows that the centre-right and pro-European EPP Group in the European Parliament would again remain the largest bloc in the assembly if there was an EU Parliament election today, with 196 seats out of 705 post-Brexit and a popular vote share of 25.0%. In the EU election in May 2019—discounting the United Kingdom and adding the post-Brexit MEPs around the EU—the EPP finished with 187 of seats and a popular vote share of 22.6%. Today’s projection shows that EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU-EPP) would have a strong mandate to continue in her position when looking purely at the party support.
The centre-left and pro-European S&D would come second with 134 out of 705 seats and 18.3% of the popular vote. This would be 14 seats and 0.6 percentage points less in the popular vote than in the 2019 election—again discounting the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs. The S&D Group hosts Socialist and Social Democratic parties like the German SPD and the Swedish Social Democrats (S) in the EU Parliament from across the continent.
Europe Elects’ projection of seats of European Parliament in August 2020
Trailing the two frontrunner groups by some margin, the third biggest European Parliamentary group in our August projection is the liberal and pro-European RE Group with 96 seats, which is one seat less than compared to what the group achieved in the 2019 EU election sans the UK. In terms of vote shares, the RE Group receives 11.5% in our projection. That is 0.8 percentage points less than in the EU election last year. The RE Group hosts political parties such as the French LREM and the German FDP.
The right-wing and largely eurosceptic ID Group in the European Parliament is projected to get 75 out of 705 seats, a vote share of 10.9% and be the fourth largest European Parliamentary group if there was an EU election today. This is one seat less and 0.3 percentage points less than in the EU election minus the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs.
Europe Elects’ projection of popular vote in the EU in August 2020
The eurosceptic-trending and national-conservative ECR Group is projected to get 71 seats should an EU election be held now. The group—which amongst others includes the Polish PiS and the Italian Fratelli d’Italia (FdI)—received 62 seats in the pre-Brexit 2019 EU election, discounting the UK and distributing the post-Brexit MEPs. Across the EU, the national parties affiliated with the ECR Group have a combined EU popular vote share of 9.6% in August, which is 1.5 points above ECR’s 2019 election result.
The left-wing GUE/NGL is projected to be the sixth-largest bloc in the European Parliament, should there be an election today, rather clearly behind the five biggest groups. Europe Elects’ August projection predicts the group would receive 55 out of 705 seats, up from 40 in the EU election 2019 sans the UK. In the popular vote projection, the group stands at 8.1%, up from 7.0% in the 2019 election. Croatian newcomer Možemo!, which is under the current methodology registered as part of the GUE/NGL group, would enter the EU Parliament for the first time receiving one seat.
largely ‘pro-EU’ Greens/EFA was the fifth-largest parliamentary group in the European election in May 2019 without the UK but has since slid to the seventh position. In terms of seats, Greens/EFA decreased from 68 seats and 11.5% in the election night to only 49 MEPs and 7.4% in Europe Elects’ August projection. Greens continue their slow recovery from their nadir earlier in spring.
The Non-Inscrits—those parties left without a parliamentary group in the European Parliament—would send 24 MEPs with a 4.1% vote share in the popular vote to the European Parliament in August’s projection. Five seats would go to unaffiliated parties that have no relationship to the groups mentioned before.
Disproportionate or sometimes opposite developments in the popular vote share and the seat projection can be explained with the slight disproportionality of the electoral system for the European Parliament. The data presented in this article are based on 27 August 2020.
Visit our European Parliament projection site for a more in-depth overview and the methodology behind the monthly projection.