Event Report: ‘Brexit and the European Parliament Elections 2019’
Tom McDonald (DCU Brexit Institute)
The conference room at Europe House in Dublin city center was full on 16th of May when the DCU Brexit Institute hosted a seminar event on “Brexit & European Elections 2019”. The event was divided into two parts that included: presentations by researchers on the role of European Parliament elections in the Brexit process; followed by a panel discussion from three rival Dublin MEP candidates.
In his presentation, Gary Murphy, Professor of Politics in the DCU School of Law and Government, drew attention to the role of national politics in EU elections. In particular, he highlighted the role of the collapse in party membership in Ireland in recent years, which led to a loss of European Parliament seats for Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour in 2014.
Assistant professor of Law in the DCU School of Law and Government, Rebecca Schmidt, investigated the role of Brexit in the composition of the EU parliament, in particular with regard to the allocation of the number of seats per member state. While legally, MEPs represent EU citizens (and not their national constituencies alone) and are elected for the duration of 5 years, political solutions are required for dealing with British MEPs, should the UK leave the EU during the next 5 years. Such a “conditional election” (election conditional of Brexit) may, in fact, prove to be unconstitutional. It was therefore suggested in the subsequent discussion, that a legal challenge of the election results was a possibility.
Finally, Dr. Anastasia Deligkiaouri, a Marie-Curie Research Fellow of the DCU School of Communications, concluded the first part of the seminar event with a discussion of the important role of the EU parliament in representing the European people, and the central role of public and social media in transmitting this key role of the EU parliament to a wider European audience. In particular, she noted that research shows that events such as the seminar event hosted by the DCU Brexit Institute not only increase the knowledge of European politics and awareness for the role of the EU institutions of participants, helping them form an opinion but also increases the likelihood of increased participation in the elections.
In the second part of the seminar event, MEP candidates confirmed that there was a positive spirit in the election campaign in Ireland, Barry Andrews (Fianna Fail/ALDE) even called it a “festival of democracy”. The political messages and focus of the three candidates were clearly European, demonstrating again, how multi-level democracy brings forward a different policy focus, depending on the level at which policymaking is taking place. Barry Andrews also posited that there should be uniformity when it comes to forming climate change policies and backed the idea of increased cross-party collaboration to tackle future European issues that may arise.
Subsequently, Alex White (Labour/S&D) opened his address by endorsing the plea made at the Eurovision Presidential Debate by European Commission Presidential candidate, Frans Timmermans about combating indifference. Alex White referred to the apparent indifference towards housing and domestic issues in Ireland. The Dublin MEP candidate attested about the importance of the social dimension in Europe and stated that Frans Timmermans is a “good representative for a green social democracy”.
In conclusion, Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael/EPP) argued that these European Parliament elections were important in relation to where we see the future of Europe going. She discussed the sustainability of transport in Dublin and trying to make Dublin a liveable city. In relation to this, she posited that the housing crisis is a European-wide problem. She stated the: “housing issue in Dublin is not unique. Capital cities around Europe face the same problem”. The Former Tanaiste proposed that Europe can take leadership on policy issues that are beyond national governments and identified climate change as a number one priority (“If it was easy we would be there”). She endorsed the concept of a just transition fund for dealing with the global issue. Frances Fitzgerald concluded her address by highlighting that Irish SMEs will face a number of challenges in light of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and stated that “market diversification post-Brexit will be a challenge”.
Tom McDonald is an intern at the DCU Brexit Institute.