Nigel Farage's newly formed Brexit party won the most UK seats in the EU Parliament elections, delivering a significant challenge to the nation's two main political parties.
It proved a momentous result on several fronts after the Conservatives turned in their worst electoral performance since the 1830s, securing only four seats and 9% of the vote. The Labour party also suffered a similarly muted showing, finishing in third place in England and Wales and fifth in Scotland, with just over 14% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats were among the big beneficiaries of voters shunning the two main parties, gaining 16 seats and over 20% of the total vote share - a 13% increase on their last showing in 2014.
In a stark reminder of just how polarised the UK remains on the issue of Europe, while the Brexit party gained the largest single share of the vote at just over 31%, some commentators have highlighted how pro-remain parties collectively won the biggest total share of the vote.
What will happen with Brexit?
No matter how you interpret the results, where this leaves the wider Brexit process now is far from clear. Some commentators believe that the Brexit Party's victory significantly raises the prospect that Britain's next Prime Minister, once chosen, will be a firm advocate of leaving the EU without a deal. Indeed, many of the candidates to be Theresa May's successor are already arguing that 31 October should be a final deadline for the UK's exit from the EU, deal or otherwise.
Others have also widely speculated that the obvious next step would be to seek further clarity from the electorate through either a second referendum or general election. Either way, there are still significant stumbling blocks ahead before either eventuality can become a reality. There is also the third option of Theresa May's withdrawal agreement deal returning to the table as was originally intended before she announced her resignation, though how much appetite any new Conservative leader would have to resurrect a three-time defeated deal very much remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the result will have given little comfort to businesses, who continue to seek clarity and certainty on Brexit as they look to plan for the future. They, alongside the rest of the nation, will be watching the upcoming Conservative Party leadership contest with huge interest for further insight into what Brexit delivery strategy the ultimate new Prime Minister plans to employ.
Gowling WLG's Brexit Unit
Despite the uncertainty, it is critical that businesses move forward with plans for the different potential scenarios. Gowling WLG regularly plays a part in the conversation surrounding Brexit, while also helping clients navigate this period of change with advice on subjects such as strategic planning and risk management.
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