Change UK can help defeat hard Brexit – but not how you’d expect

By re-distributing just 2 per cent of voters from the weakest to the strongest Remain party in each region, the pro-European side could snatch victory from the jaws of supposedly inevitable ‘defeat’

How do European Elections work?

The vagaries of the European election voting system, which is a complicated hybrid of proportional representation, party lists and traditional constituency voting have caused confusion about the likely outcome of the contest and how pro-Europeans should cast their votes. The dominant narrative has been about a landslide victory for a no-deal Brexit. Yet the polls have consistently shown the Brexit Party, Ukip and the Tories collectively to be in a minority, with most voters supporting parties that want to maintain a close relationship with the EU.

This is why Best for Britain created in 2017 to campaign for an EU relationship that works in the national interest, not just that of a particular party, faction or politician decided to step in.

Our organisation commissioned from YouGov the only opinion poll with a sample big enough to provide reliable information about the strength of different parties in each of the 11 regional MEP constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales.

Now that this poll has finally offered reliable regional information, it has confirmed that pro-EU parties command a majority a 53-47 in popular votes. Even more importantly for Britain’s political narrative and relationship with our EU partners, our polling shows that a transformational result could be achieved in MEP numbers through some very modest tactical voting on the pro-European side.

In fact, pro-Europeans could readily "win" this election, both in popular votes and in MEP numbers, by redistributing just half the votes that currently look like being “wasted” by the weakest of the pro-Remain parties in each region. Alternatively, an increase of only 2 per cent in the total turnout of pro-EU voters could similarly result in Britain sending to Brussels a majority of pro-EU MEPs.

The full details of how small changes in regional votes would translate into MEP results and change the national outlook, are shown in the interactive calculator on Best for Britain’s website.

The regional breakdown shows that, as things stand, the popular vote share will split 53-47 in favour of maintaining Britain’s close relationship with Europe, but the distribution of Britain’s 70 MEP seats will split 36 to 34 the opposite way. If so, then the media headline will all too likely be “Farage Wins”.

If, on the other hand, just half the voters now planning to support the weakest pro-EU party in each region – adding up to just 2 per cent of national voters – were instead to support the Remain party that is locally strongest (the Greens in West Midlands, the SNP in Scotland and Liberal Democrats in all other seats) the electoral outcome would be reversed. Britain would send 36 pro-EU MEPs to Brussels, versus 34 Brexit and Tory MEPs.

In other words, by re-distributing just 2 per cent of voters from the weakest to the strongest Remain party in each region, the pro-European side could snatch a clear victory from the jaws of supposedly inevitable “defeat” to the Brexiteers.

An even more spectacular result – 38 MEPs in favour of Europe against 32 Brexiteers and Tories – could be achieved if a similar 2 per cent swing were redistributed more tactically to pro-EU candidates who are in the best position to benefit in each region.

In most areas this would still mean supporting the Lib Dems, but in one, the most effective tactical redistribution would be to Labour. This is Yorkshire and Humberside, where neither the Lib Dems nor Greens could plausibly win more seats from tactical voting, whereas the second-ranked Labour candidate is Eloise Todd, a passionate Labour Remainer (and for full disclosure, CEO of Best for Britain currently on unpaid leave) would win an extra seat at the Brexit Party’s expense on a 2 per cent swing.

These polling numbers should be compelling for anyone who cares about Britain’s political and economic prospects. Especially for the leaders and supporters of Change UK.

The bad news for Change UK is that it is the weakest pro-Remain party in every region, with poll numbers now so low that they have no realistic chance of winning any MEP seats. In this sense, a vote for Change UK is wasted. But the good news is that this very weakness offers Change UK an opportunity to prove that it really is different from other political parties and is genuinely committed to a transformation of British politics.

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As explained above, if just half the people now planning to vote for Change UK were to vote instead for a stronger pro-EU party in their region, this would transform the political narrative which currently predicts decisive victory for Farage and his no-deal Brexit into a sensational defeat.

Imagine if Change UK were to publicly recognize this reality and seize it as an opportunity to show national leadership: Not only on the Brexit issue, but even more importantly as an example of the way British politics really could and should change to become more collaborative, rational and evidence-based.

Change UK will have its own longer-term goals to consider, but if it were to announce that it would no longer contest the European election, it would certainly be considered as a selfless act by pro-European voters. That in itself could be seen as part of a longer term strategy. In any case, a simple fact remains. If just half of Change UK voters decide to put national interest first, Britain could return a pro-European majority.

Lord Malloch-Brown is chairman and Anatole Kaletsky is a board member of Best for Britain.

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