EU elections: UK goes to the polls

22 May 2019, 23:28 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 13:40

Voting has got under way in the UK today to elect MEPs to the European Parliament.

The Netherlands also goes to the polls on Thursday with the 26 other EU member states to follow over the next three days.

There are 12 UK regions with candidates from the Brexit Party and Change UK standing for the first time, along with the Conservatives, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Labour and a handful of smaller parties.

MEPs in England, Wales and Scotland will be elected via a proportional representation voting system, which takes into account the parties' total share of the vote in each region.

It is different to the first-past-the-post system used in UK general elections, which sees individual MPs selected based on which candidate secure the most votes in each constituency.

Northern Ireland will elect its MEPs using a single transferable vote system, with voters asked to rank the candidates in order of preference.

Polling stations in the UK will be open from 7am and close at 10pm, with each ballot paper to feature a list of parties with their candidates next to them.

Parties will often list as many candidates as there are MEPs for the region - for example, London elects eight MEPs, therefore most of the major parties have each put forward eight candidates.

:: The 12 UK electoral regions:

  • Eastern
  • East Midlands
  • London
  • Northern Ireland
  • North East
  • North West
  • Scotland
  • South East
  • South West
  • Wales
  • West Midlands
  • Yorkshire and Humber

The UK will elect 73 MEPs from across the 12 regions - the South East has the most with 10, while there are only three elected each from the North East and Northern Ireland.

Candidates will have to wait until Sunday evening to find out how they fared, as the results are kept under wraps until voting across all 28 EU member states is complete.

Once in place, the new parliament - made up of a total of 751 MEPs - will work with the European Council to pass EU laws, based on the recommendations of the European Commission.

EU law can relate to workers' rights and citizens' rights, consumer protection, as well as other issues like environmental, agricultural and fisheries policy.

The parliament also scrutinises EU institutions, decides the budget, and looks at petitions from EU citizens.