The anti-EU insurgency has led to experts predicting that the European election results with have a profound impact on Brussels in the coming days. Britain’s Brexit Party, Italy’s League, France’s National Rally and the Netherland’s Forum for Democracy have all struck fear into the EU elite – and not just for their desire to see the bloc implode. The authoritative Europe Elects website projected that eurosceptics would win, or come with touching distance, in each of the major EU counties.
And the implications is likely to lead to complete EU deadlock, as pro-Brussels politicians fight for the top jobs over the coming months.
The populist surge is set to fragment the Parliament’s traditional powerhouses of the European People’s Party and Socialists, who are now not guaranteed their pick for Jean-Claude Juncker’s successor as Commission president.
The decline in support for the EPP and Socialists could turn the Liberal Democrats into unlikely kingmakers, after pledging to join Guy Verhofstadt’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
This would hand de facto power to Emmanuel Macron in dictating the process to select the next Commission president and in turn destroying the bloc’s Spitzenkandidaten process.
Pieter Cleppe, of the Open Europe think-tank, said: “Up to one-third of European Parliament seats are projected to go to politicians that can be broadly defined as ‘eurosceptics’, up from around one in four in 2014.
“There are two kinds of eurosceptics: those trying to reform the EU into a more modest inter-governmental arrangement, focused on scrapping barriers to trade between countries, and those trying to rip up everything and resurrect border checks and economic protectionism.
“The warning for the EU should be clear: if it continues to ignore constructive criticism and instead goes on trying to scrap national vetoes, for example over taxation or foreign policy, it will fuel the popularity of those keen to throw away the baby with the bathwater.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and Thierry Baudet, who heads up the Dutch Forum for Democracy, will be the first eurosceptics to register seats with their countries voting today.
Mr Macron fears that Mr Farage’s presence in the European Parliament could force a no-deal Brexit and even “pollute” the European Commission’s next mandate.
The French President told Belgian newspaper Le Soir: “In the case of Brexit, you just have to know at some point whether it stops or not.
“If we have the weakness of saying it scares us, we betray both the British and interests of the EU.”
“We have build a consensus around October 31, that is to say before the establishment of a new Commission, to prevent its next mandate being polluted by this subject we’ve been talking about for three years.”
Fabian Zuleeg, head of Brussels-based think-tank the European Policy Centre, suggests the Brexit Party could have massive influence on Theresa May’s successor as prime minister at the EU negotiating table.
He said: “The likely strength of the Brexit Party should be a warning signal to the EU27 when considering a further extension in the autumn if the UK remains unable to come to a substantive decision before then.
“It shows the potential of a mobilisation of pro-Brexit votes around Brexit as a single issue in the case of a second referendum or a general election.”
The instability of Britain’s Government is also a cause for concern amongst Brussels officials, with Mrs May’s resignation expected within days.
While publicly, eurocrats have said her withdrawal agreement is still the only divorce deal available to Britain, they are preparing for to reconsider their approach.
Officials believe that Boris Johnson, the bookmakers’ favourite, would be able to sell a slightly altered package better than Mrs May.