Yes, these European Parliament elections matter. Given the increasingly strengthened role of the parliament in EU decisionmaking, including legislative authority, budgetary power, and oversight functions, its membership will affect policy outcomes. These elections will also provide a barometer of public opinion across the continent on support for populist parties, with the caveats that turnout is frequently lower than in national elections and that voting is normally along domestic rather than European lines.
The most immediate problem is bandwidth, particularly in London but also in EU-27 capitals, as endless Brexit debates distract attention from other challenges. For example, leaders scrapped a discussion on China at the March European Council to discuss Brexit deadlines. Even if a divorce is agreed, negotiations on the future relationship could take years.
Despite historic British resistance to deeper integration, the U.K. is a global player whose participation has benefitted EU policymaking. Although protracted Brexit arguments have strained relations, European diplomats lament the impending loss of regular contact with their British counterparts on a myriad of issues.
In economic terms, Brexit will affect the U.K. more than the EU. Yet the nature and extent of Brexit’s impact on all member states will depend on how Britain leaves the EU and the future degree of regulatory alignment. A no-deal departure would hinder continental supply chains and markets, whereas continued British participation in the Customs Union and/or Single Market would minimize disruption. Beyond quarrels about the backstop, Brexit has destabilized politics in Northern Ireland by resurfacing contentious identity and constitutional questions.
[U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has] very clearly been putting the interest of party unity first [but has failed to win over her pro-Brexit MPs who demand the EU make more concessions. Now] the only alternative is to pivot in the other direction and try to get some support from Labour MPs.
The big question is whether [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan significantly changes his ways or if he doubles down. It’s hard to think of historical examples where leaders who have become more authoritarian suddenly turn around and liberalize, but Erdoğan has proven himself to be a very clever, pragmatic politician. It’s not impossible that he finds a way to turn this around.