Event Report: ‘Which Brexit After the European Elections?’
Tom McDonald (DCU Brexit Institute)
The Gallery Room at the Helix, Dublin City University (DCU) was bustling on 14th June 2019 at the DCU Brexit Institute seminar event ‘Which Brexit After European Parliament Elections?’. The event was divided into two parts: a keynote speech by Dr. Mark Speich (Secretary of State for Federal Affairs, Europe and International Affairs, North Rhine-Westphalia) chaired by Federico Fabbrini (DCU Brexit Institute); followed by a panel discussion consisting of Francis Jacobs (Former Director of the European Parliament Information Office Dublin), Professor John O’Brennan (Maynooth University), Associate Professor Eoin O’Malley (DCU) and Jennifer Powers (Associate at Competere), chaired by Paddy Smyth (Brussels Correspondent with the Irish Times).
In his keynote speech, Dr. Mark Speich drew attention to the concept of European integration pre and post-Brexit. He discussed in detail the ongoing debate surrounding the ‘spitzenkandidaten’ process and selection procedure for the next President of the European Commission. Dr. Speich also mentioned that the recent European Parliament (EP) elections focused on common European issues and further discussed about the potential impact the European Parliament political groups will have during the next term (2019-2024). The Secretary concluded his remarks by discussing about the ‘rule of law’ and ongoing political issues in Hungary and Poland.
In the second part of the seminar, the panel discussed the significance of the increased voter turnout in the elections and the importance of these elections for the future of Europe. In particular, Francis Jacobs highlighted the governing majority lost by the traditional centrist groups in the EP in May. Jacobs also mentioned how the increase in voter turnout could not be perceived as a protest vote against established parties but he believed it could be viewed as a vote against far-right parties. He pointed out that the overall majority of candidates elected this year to the EP represented pro-European views which demonstrated support for the European Union He also emphasised the significant gains in EP seats made by the Green and Liberal parties and noticed how there were more votes cast for candidates proposing climate action policies in Western EU countries compared to Eastern EU states.
Subsequently, John O’Brennan discussed about the ‘rule of law’ in Europe and posited that the support for far-right parties has not subsided. O’Brennan argued that there is a need for the EU to address continuing issues relating to the ‘rule of law’ in Hungary and Poland in particular. O’Brennan believed that it was unlikely that Manfred Weber will become the next President of the European Commission. In his presentation, Associate Professor Eoin O’Malley outlined the shape and composition of the new EP and contributed with his views on the EP elections. He also discussed about the current ongoing issues in British politics.
In conclusion, Jennifer Powers presented recent trends in British politics and discussed the work of the UK Alternative Arrangements Commission. She discussed the UK results of the European Parliament elections, the Peterborough by-election and current race for leader of the UK Conservative Party. She argued that there was immense pressure on the next Prime Minister to deliver Brexit and the increasing chance of an early UK general election. Paddy Smyth moderated the panel discussion and the busy question and answer session.
Tom McDonald is an intern at the DCU Brexit Institute.