European Council confirms smaller and reformatted EP after Brexit; make up of future political groups likely to have bigger impact on EU policy than revised numbers

BREXIT

The next European Parliament will shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs, the European Council formally decided yesterday. The decision, which reduces and redistributes European Parliament seats, following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), came after the European Parliament’s endorsement of the proposed recomposition of seats earlier this month. Of the 73 seats currently held by the UK, and hence vacated by Brexit by May 2019, 46 will be left in a reserve and will be allocated to new countries joining the EU, used for potential transnational lists or remain empty. The remaining 27 will be re-allocated to better reflect the principle of degressive proportionality.
Under the current composition of seats, half of the Member States are slightly under-represented, given recent demographic developments in some EU countries. As a result, the European Council’s decision will ensure that the European Parliament better reflects such changes in population. Thus, the 27 seats will be distributed to France (+5), Spain (+5), Italy (+3), Netherlands (+3), Ireland (+2), Sweden (+1), Austria (+1), Denmark (+1), Finland (+1), Slovakia (+1), Croatia (+1), Estonia (+1), Poland (+1) and Romania (+1), whilst no member state will lose any seats. In relative terms, Ireland will enjoy the single largest increase – 18 per cent – from 11 to 13 MEPs.
With the new composition, effective after the May 2019 European election, the balance of power within the European Parliament will likely change, as France (79 ), Italy (76) and Spain (59) will get closer to Germany (96). In other words, the next European Parliament will off-set the withdrawal of a major Member State like the UK (73) by strengthening the position of France, Italy and Spain, which somewhat act as a counterbalance to Germany. Finally, whilst this resize and redistribution of seats will surely affect the dynamics of the post-2019 European Parliament, the make-up of future political groups will likely play an even greater role. Only on 27 May 2019, however, will we begin to know what that might look like.

Nicolas Balcell