Hello and welcome to the FT's live coverage of the EU elections coming to you from the European Parliament in Brussels. Team Brussels, composed of myself, Jim Brunsden and Alex Barker, will be guiding you through the night until the early hours of the morning along with contributions from our correspondents across the continent.

The last ballot box in the EU closes at 2200 BST in Italy. Before then we'll be giving you regularly updated estimates from across Europe. Here's some useful timings to note (in BST):

19.00: The first estimate of France's election results from the European Parliament

19.15: the first set of aggregate numbers for the new look European Parliament based on 12 national estimates

20.15: the second set of aggregate numbers of the European Parliament based on 17 national estimates

22.15: The first official EP results projection

A quick thing to note from the FT's coverage tonight. Due to legal restrictions in the UK, we will not be reporting national exit polls from member states and instead using estimates compiled by the European Parliament throughout the night. The first batch - from Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malta, and the Netherlands will drop at 1700 CET.

Turnouts rise across Europe
A big thing to watch before the ballot boxes close tonight is reported turnout levels. Historically, EP elections have had very poor voter participation (it last broke 50 per cent in 1994) but the tide might be turning in 2019.

At 5pm in France, turnout is up significantly at around 43 per cent, compared to 35p per cent in 2014 (see tweet below). In Sweden, the country's electoral authority has noted record high turnout at 20.3 per cent. In Slovakia, which reported the lowest turnout of any member state in 2014 at just 13 per cent, it has risen to around 20 per cent.

https://twitter.com/Place_Beauvau/status/1132662781537390593

What to watch from the EU's biggest member state

The FT's Guy Chazan reports from Berlin on how the EU election and another regional vote in Bremen today will be the first big test for Germany's two dominant mainstream parties:

In Germany, the poll is the first electoral test for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the woman who succeeded Angela Merkel as CDU leader last December and is widely expected to replace her as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021. But her standing in the CDU could be dealt a big blow if the party garners substantially less than the 30 per cent it won in 2014.

Germany's left-of-centre Social Democrats will also come under pressure if, as expected, their share of the vote drops far below the 27 per cent they garnered in 2014. A poor performance will likely trigger calls from the grass roots for the SPD to quit its grand coalition with Ms Merkel's CDU, which many activists blame for the party's misfortune.

The SPD is also braced for bad news from Bremen, the city state which is today electing a new parliament. The Social Democrats have governed the city since 1945. But polls suggest it could be overtaken as the largest party this year by the CDU.

Voters turnout rises sharply in Poland and Hungary
There have been big rises in turnout in Hungary, up almost 11 per cent so far today and 9 per cent in Poland (the ballots are still open), according to estimates seen by the Financial Times.

Of the votes that have already closed, only Malta reported a slight decrease in turnout.

"We think the average turnout will rise 2-3 percentage points" says one parliament official.

What will the new European Parliament look like?

We get the first estimated look at the new EP at 19.15 BST but before then you can keep updated with the national polls using the FT's poll tracker:

A big thing to note is the "new" category which for now will include the UK's Brexit party and other new parties that haven't formally joined existing alliances in the parliament, like Spain's far-right Vox. Emmanuel Macron's En Marche is counted with the liberal Alde group.

Italy's blackout

Italy will be the last member state to close its ballot boxes at 2200 BST tonight.

The FT's Miles Johnson in Rome reports on how populist leader Matteo Salvini's Twitter account is causing consternation.

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's anti-migration League party, was criticised by opposition politicians over the weekend for continuing to tweet about the elections even as the country was under a formal "electoral silence" ahead of voting.

https://twitter.com/matteosalvinimi/status/1132673664804106241

Italy's laws against campaigning in the days running up to an election were written long before the existence of the internet and do not formally include social media. As interior minster Mr Salvini's own ministry is responsible for policing elections in Italy.

Matteo Renzi, the Democratic Party ex-prime minister, wrote himself on Twitter: "Salvini, minister of the interior, should set an example by respecting the electoral silence instead of violating it".

Mr Salvini has continued to tweet throughout Sunday.

Emoticon Green surge in Germany according to EP estimates

We have the first lot of national estimates from seven member states from the European Parliament compiled by Kantor.

They show that Germany's Green party has jumped significantly to gain 23 per cent of the vote with 23 seats, just behind Angela Merkel's CDU, which has fallen to 28 per cent (28 seats) The biggest victim seems to be the Germany SPD, with falls also for the liberal FDP led by Christian Lindner.

Timmermans wins in the Netherlands

According to the unofficial EP estimates, the Dutch Labour party has secured first place in the Netherlands with 18 per cent of the vote. One reason may be the presence in the campaign of Frans Timmermans, who is the European centre-left's candidate to become the next EU commission president.

Austria's Freedom party unharmed by #IbizaGate

Austria's far-right Freedom party looks to have emerged relatively unscathed from its recent #IbizaGate scandal that has forced them to leave Vienna's governing coalition in disgrace. They've emerged with 17.5 per cent of the vote, down from 19.2 per cent in 2014 and retain third place in the country.

Sebastian Kurz's ruling centre-right party gained nearly 10 percentage points and will have seven seats according to the EP estimates. The centre-left social democrats treaded water with the Greens also making small gains.

"Bitter result" for German centre-left

Guy Chazan in Berlin reports on what looks to be a punishing night for Germany's SPD.

Carsten Schneider, the German Social Democrats' chief whip, said it was a "bitter result, a defeat for us".

"I think the main issue was climate change and we didn't succeed in putting that front and centre, alongside the big social issues".

The ruling conservatives remain the biggest party despite having a falling vote share. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU leader, said the party had achieved its two main objectives: it emerged as the strongest, and so helped Manfred Weber's campaign to become European Commission president.

The CDU has also apparently won the election in the city state of Bremen, which has been ruled for the last 73 years by the SPD.

Far-right party makes early gains in Belgian election
While much of Europe is focused on the EU parliament vote, Belgians also went to the polls today for general and regional elections.
Early results show a breakthrough in the Dutch-speaking north of the country for the Vlaams Belang, a far-right, anti-immigrant separatist party.
With close to 30 percent of results counted, it looks like the party could become the second-largest in the Flemish parliament behind the N-VA, another nationalist party.

No big turnout rises in Italy

France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and others are likely to see decent leaps in turnout this weekend, but not so much in Italy.

The FT's Miles Johnson in Rome reports turnout in Italy counted at 19.00 local time was 39.2 per cent, up slightly compared to 38.53 per cent at the same point in 2014.

Data earlier in the day pointed towards turnout in the north of the country being slightly higher in the northern regions of Italy compared to 2014, and lower in the south and islands.

This may auger well for Matteo Salvini's League, which has the bulk of its core vote in the north, and poorly for the Five Star Movement, which draws much of its support from the south.

The FT's Sam Jones reports on a jubilant Sebastian Kurz's reaction to the EU elections results in Austria, where exit polls indicate his Austrian People's Party won a clear victory.

Speaking in front of a jubilant crowd of supporters in front of the Austrian People's Party headquarters on Sunday evening, just off Vienna's elegant Ringstrasse, a visibly pleased Mr Kurz thanked voters repeatedly.

"I am not often lost for words, but I am almost speechless," the Austrian prime minister said, praising "the historic best ever" vote his party had polled in Europe.

It's not all bad for the centre-left

Germany's SPD is making all the headlines so far this evening after suffering what looks to be big defeats in European elections and a regional vote in Bremen.

But it's not all doom and gloom for other social democrats. The Netherlands benefited from what the Dutch media are calling the "Timmermans effect", where the country's lead candidate to replace Jean-Claude Juncker came first in elections, surprising most observers. Mainstream Dutch centre-left and centre-right parties also held their ground in the face of a new populist far-right force called the Forum for Democracy.

Malta's ruling Labour Party is also expected to increase its vote share to 55 per cent. Spain's socialists are also hoping to capitalise on last month's general elections by usurping the centre-right to become the biggest party. Italy's Democratic Party, which won big in 2014, is also hoping to bounce back from terrible polls over the last two years and become the main opposition force to Matteo Salvini's right-wing League.

The Millenial vote in Germany

The SPD - look away now:

Hungary's record turnout

The FT's Valerie Hopkins is hanging out at Hungary's Fidesz party HQ tonight.

She reports that Hungarians have turned out in record numbers. A Fidesz spokesperson said the unofficial turnout at 18:30 local time, half an hour before the polls closed, was 41.7 per cent. In 2014, the total turnout was below 30 per cent.

Observers say low turnout will help the nationalist premier Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party while several small opposition parties struggle to meet the five per cent threshold to enter the European Parliament.

The 40-year curse could be broken

For the first time since the first EU elections elections 1979, turnout looks like it will be up.

The European Parliament's spokesman has just told journalists that estimated turnout in the 28 member states is around 49-51 per cent this year. That would be up from 42 per cent in 2014 - and if we breach 50 per cent, it will be the first time since 1994.

https://twitter.com/MehreenKhn/status/1132705633558511616

Portugal bucks turnout trend

As polls close in Portugal, Peter Wise in Lisbon reports that local media reports projected turnout for the election is at 33.5-29.5 per cent, among the lowest in Europe. Turnout in 2014 was 33.7 per cent. Polling continues in Portugal’s Azores islands.

We don't have any official results yet, but that hasn't stopped the Socialists and Democrats, the parliament's main centre-left group, from making plans for the future.

Despite unofficial data showing a poor result in Germany, the S&D has put out a press release announcing its intention "to forge a strong progressive alliance" in the assembly. Let's see if other parties want to play ball...

Emoticon First look at the new European Parliament

We have 11 member state exit polls allowing the EP to come up with its first distribution of seats. At first glance, we see that the conservative EPP bloc retains its position as the largest. The biggest winners look to be the Greens, who jump nearly 15 seats to 71.

As it stands, the eurosceptic alliance grows slightly to form around 26-27 per cent of the chamber, up from around a fifth in 2014.

However this comes with a big health warning as we don't have full results from a majority of member states and voting is still going on in many.

Emoticon Le Pen narrowly beats Macron in France, according to EP estimates

France's far-right National Rally has narrowly beaten Emmanuel Macron's centrist En Marche party according to the EP's estimates. Marine Le Pen's party, which won in 2014, gained per cent 23.7 per cent of the vote, with En Marche at 22.47 per cent. But the difference is just one seat in the parliament. (See below)

The conservative Les Republicains, part of the centre-right EPP, fall to just 8 per cent while the socialists get wacked,falling to just over 6 per cent.

Updated estimates from Germany
Still looking ok for the CDU, very good for the Greens, and pretty grim for the SPD. Here's the data compiled by the EU parliament:

Le Pen celebrates

The FT's Victor Mallet in Paris reports celebrations among the National Rally, whose MEP candidate Jordan Bardella has welcomed a “popular rising against the government in power, which today has suffered a real setback”. Emmanuel Macron, he added, had been taught a lesson in humility by the French people. “It’s him and his policies that have been rejected.”

“The progress of our allies in Europe opens the way for a powerful group at the heart of the European Parliament."

The early calculations showed a strong performance from Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV, the French greens), with 12.7 per cent of the vote, while the centre-right Les Républicains - the inheritors of the traditional French right - had a score of only 8.5 per cent, much lower than in the opinion polls.

“We are today the third force in politics [in France],” said Yannick Jadot of the EELV. “This is indeed a European green wave.”

Manu v Le Pen

More from Victor Mallet in Paris

Although there were 34 party lists vying for votes in France, the contest quickly became a two-way battle between President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

Mr Macron and his supporters will seek to take comfort from the fact that the far right National Rally tends to do better in European elections than in national ones. Its preliminary score of 24.2 per cent was slightly below its result in 2014, when it emerged as the largest French party with 24.9 per cent, against 20.8 per cent for the right-wing UMP.

A beaming Ms Le Pen called on other parties to join with the RN to mount a united opposition to Mr Macron and said that the president should “at the minimum” dissolve the National Assembly and introduce a more representative national election system. “A big movement for a future government is born tonight,” she said.

This year Ms Le Pen - who lost to Mr Macron in the second round of the French presidential election in 2017 - also took advantage of the anti-government gilets jaunes protests over the past six months to turn the election into a national referendum on Mr Macron’s performance.

Instead of shirking the challenge, Mr Macron entered the political fray in support of his faltering European election leader Ms Loiseau, declaring in Romania at an EU summit earlier this month: “I will use all my energy to ensure that the Rassemblement National does not come out on top.”

It was a calculated risk by Mr Macron, who has framed the elections as an existential struggle between pro-EU politicians such as himself and nationalists who want to weaken Europe. A loss to the RN suggests the charisma and energy that helped sweep him and his party to power two years ago have started to lose some of their appeal for French voters.

Mr Macron is unlikely to risk his party’s control of the lower house of parliament with a new national election, although French political commentators have predicted a government reshuffle in the event of a severe loss to the RN.

"The Greens will be indispensable"

If the results stay as they are, the Greens will be among the big winners gaining around 20 seats in the new European Parliament. That will also make them potential "kingmakers" in aby broad alliance of pro-EU parties forming a majority in the parliament.

Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens in Brussels, has said the party will be "indispensable" in the horse-trading to come:

"With the uptick in nationalism, the Greens will be indispensable. You can count on us to say we can bring about a radical change for a sustainable and democratic Europe".

Mr Lamberts says the Greens will extract a high price for being part of any coalition, which is up for negotiations.

"The Greens will not just sign a piece of paper and let others take our place."

"Europe is back"

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals, has celebrated the return of Europe and a shifting balance of power in the EU after the centre-right and centre-left looks to have lost its joint majority. Mr Verhofstadt's Liberals will form a joint group with Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance:

"We are the pro-European group that has won the election.

"Europe is back and Europe is popular. We will form and establish a new group of around 100 seats. It will be a crucial group. For the first time in 40 years, the two classical parties will no longer have a majority. That means that no solid pro-European majority is possible without the help and participation o f our new centrist groups.

The FT's Nordic and Baltic correspondent, Richard Milne reports on a defeat for Denmark's populists:

The populist Danish People's party have suffered a huge collapse in support only 10 days before national elections in Denmark.

The anti-EU, anti-immigration party is set to lose more than half of its share of the vote, sliding from 26.6 per cent in 2015 to 11.8 per cent, according to a Danish TV exit poll.

Political scientists credit the centre-left Social Democrats - in first place on 23.6 per cent - with having somewhat neutralised the populists by becoming more restrictive on immigration themselves.

How it breaks down in Germany

Courtesy of the FT's crack graphics team:

Pro-EU parties hold their ground against the populist wave

It's 2130 CET local time and here's our take on the results so far:

A diffuse alliance of pro-EU parties largely held their ground in Sunday’s European elections, after a bruising battle with anti-establishment groups that saw Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche defeated in France. 

With indications of turnout rising for the first time 40 years, early estimates produced by the European Parliament suggest voters returned a more fragmented pro-EU majority, with traditional centre-ground parties losing seats to Greens and Liberals. Eurosceptic and far-right parties made modest gains but remained roughly a quarter of MEPs.

Poland's ruling eurosceptics celebrate victory

The FT's James Shotter in Warsaw reports that Poland's the ruling Law and Justice party is on course to win the most votes in an election that all sides are hoping to use as a stepping stone to crucial national parliamentary elections this autumn.

According EP estimates on Sunday night, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's conservative nationalist grouping won 42.4 per cent of the vote. European Coalition - an alliance of five parties built around the centre-right Civic Platform - came second with 39.1 per cent.

Spring, a new left-wing party founded by Robert Biedron, an openly gay atheist who backs the separation of Church and State, came third with 6.6 per cent, while Konfederacja, a new coalition of nationalist and far right groups won 6.1 per cent.

The result is a boost for Law and Justice ahead of the autumn elections, and follows a campaign that has increasingly become a battle over identity, with fights over the Catholic Church and LGBT rights among the most prominent issues in final weeks of the campaign.

Mr Kaczynski hailed the exit poll numbers, but warned his supporters that the party still had work to do. "We should remember that the crucial battle for the future of our motherland is in the autumn and we have to win that too, with even higher [support] than now. It’s a huge challenge," he told supporters at an event in central Warsaw.

Grzegorz Schetyna, head of Civic Platform, the largest opposition grouping, said that the results were the "first half" of the match. "We need to stay together and we can win in the autumn. That is our promise," he said

What are we waiting for?

There are three big member states where we're still waiting for estimated results: Spain, Italy, and the UK. The latter two will drop around 2300 BST. As for Spain, there are some exit polls doing the rounds but the FT won't be reporting on them just yet due to legal restrictions.

In a couple of minutes, the European Parliament will also be updating its projections on seat distributions based on estimates from 16 member states and voter intentions data from the other 12.

We'll bring them as soon as they land.

Takeaways from the night so far

It's approaching 2230 in Brussels and we've got national estimates from 14 member states so far. Here's a summary of what we know:

Turnout rises Voter participation has risen for the first time in 40 years according to projections which show turnout is up to around 49-51 per cent. Should it breach 50 per cent, that'll be the first time since 1994.

Greens celebrate Germany's Green party has beaten the social democrats to become the second largest in the country. All in all, the Greens could win as much as 20 new MEPs in Brussels, making them a force to be reckoned with in the new European Parliament and even "kingmakers" in any new pro-European alliance.

Conservatives hold onto first place The centre-right EPP will retain its position as the largest group in the parliament, but with much slimmer margins. The EPP will fall to around 177 seats in the new chamber according to latest projections, with the socialists in second and the expanded liberals (with En Marche) in third.

Le Pen narrowly beats Macron There's likely to be just one seat between the far right National Rally and centrist Renaissance in France. Marine Le Pen looks to have won the election again - as in 2014 - but just by a whisker.

Is this peak populism? We're still awaiting results from Italy and Spain, but far-right populists have made modest gains so far. In Denmark, the hard-right People's Party had a bad night. The ruling eurosceptic party in Poland won the election and Hungary's ruling Fidesz should also gain.

Losses for Romania's ruling socialists

The FT's Valerie Hopkins reports on a bad night for the ruling socialist government.

Romania’s ruling Social Democrats, or PSD, experienced a major loss, with 25.8 per cent of the vote, a decrease of 12 per cent from the 2014 elections. In April, the European alliance of Socialists froze their ties to the party due to rule of law backsliding.

After the results, Liviu Dragnea, the party’s leader, who cannot hold office because of two corruption convictions, said he would not be running in presidential elections later in the year, as widely expected.

The National Liberal Party, a centre-right EPP member, won about the same, a decrease of four per cent. The big winner is the Alliance 2020, a coalition of the Union to Save Romania and Plus parties, which garnered almost 24 per cent of the votes -- the first time they participated in the elections. According to the preliminary results, they will hold nine of Romania’s 35 seats in the European parliament.

Dan Barna, the leader of the list, called on prime minister Viorica Dancila, to resign.

More than forty per cent of eligible voters participated in a referendum called by President Klaus Iohannis, who has clashed with the Social Democrats, on some of the changes they have made in recent years to the criminal justice codes and judicial appointment system.

"This crash of the Romanian democracy, the PSD government, must disappear," Mr Iohannis said, addressing the media after the turnout figures were published

Weber rules out deal with far-right

Manfred Weber, the centre-right's pick to replace Jean-Claude Juncker, has emerged for the first time tonight to the sounds of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best".

https://twitter.com/MehreenKhn/status/1132749438152261632

With big doubts among EU capitals about the Spitzenkandidate system designed to appoint the new commission president, Mr Weber said his EPP will fight to keep the process alive. He's also ruled out working out with populist forces to get a majority in the new parliament but said the centre-right is willing to compromise with other parties.

"First of all for me, one thing is crystal clear. We will not work with those who don't believe in Europe, who want to destroy Europe."

There is no stable majority without the EPP. But we are ready to compromise."

UK results trickle in: Brexit Party sweep the board in North East and Wales

From Chris Tighe in Sunderland

The Brexit party has stormed to victory in Sunderland. Its total vote - 25,918 - was more than the combined total of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Change UK. Across the North East, the results give Nigel Farage's outfit 2 MEPs with one for Labour.

Labour, which in 2014 won two of the north east's three MEP seats, won 13.625 votes in Sunderland, one of the earliest places in the UK to declare. The LibDems got 7,653 and Change UK 2,385. UKIP which in 2014 won an MEP, polled 5,925 votes. The Conservatives polled 4,402 votes, less than the Green party on 5,252.

Here's some more results courtesy of Britain Elects:

https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1132758087121743878

https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1132757583658397696

https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1132757111727894530

https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1132756949391564800

https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1132756123646341121

How it looks so far in the UK

We have three constituencies who have voted and here's how it's shaking out in the UK so far.

Salvini wins in Italy, Five Star suffer

From the FT's Miles Johnson in Rome:

Matteo Salvini’s League party is on track to be Italy’s largest party in the European elections as exit polls indicated it would achieve between 27 and 30 per cent of the vote.

The result would mark the transformation of the League from a one-time fringe northern separatist movement polling in low single digits into a pan-Italian nationalist anti-migration party that has come to dominate Italy’s political right.

https://twitter.com/matteosalvinimi/status/1132759347472338945

At the same time Mr Salvini's coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement look on course to suffer a significant drop in support, falling into third place in the polls behind the centre left Democratic Party (PD).

The Five Star Movement was forecast to win 20-23 per cent of the vote, putting it behind the PD on 21.5 to 24.5 of the vote, according to an exit poll conducted by Quorum YouTrend. This is sharply lower than the 33 per cent the Five Star Movement won in general elections last year that made it Italy's largest party.

The result also throws open the question over the future of Italy's coalition between the League and Five Star, with Mr Salvini's strong showing expected to see him force a rebalancing in the government. In recent weeks relations between the two had become increasingly acrimonious, with senior figures on both sides questioning if the coalition could continue.

The exit polls indicated that Mr Salvini would confirm his place as the centre point for any future right wing Italian government. Ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, Italy’s member of the centre right European People’s Party in the European parliament, was predicted to win just between 9 and 11 per cent of the vote.

Tsipras calls snap Greek elections

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras - whose Syriza party came second in EU elections - has used the opportunity to call a snap general election but has not yet named the date.

The FT's Kerin Hope reports:

Speaking tonight, Mr Tsipras said:

"We took the country out of these vicious bailouts and stood it on its feet...but the results of the (European) election were not what we expected.

He said he would wait until after next weekend's second round of local government elections before presenting his government's resignation to President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

A Syriza party official said the vote would probably be held on June 30.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of New Democracy, said :"Greece needs a new government with a fresh vote from the people."

With more than one-third of votes counted in Greece, the conservatives were leading with 33.27 per cent to 23.91 per cent for Syriza. The centre-left Movement for Change held 7.21 per cent followed by the Greek communist party with 5.76 per cent and the far-right Golden Dawn with 4.94 per cent.

Turnout hits 50.5 per cent

Polling stations are closed across Europe and the European Parliament can confirm the first significant increase in turnout since the first EU elections in 1979 at 50.5 per cent. That's up from 42 per cent in 2014 and bucks a 40-year trend.

Final estimates of the European Parliament

Here's the last look of what the EP will look like, according to the latest seat estimates:

- EPP 178
- Socialists 152
- European Conservatives 61
- Alliance of Liberals plus En Marche 108
- United Left 39
- Greens 67
- European Freedom and Direct Democracy 53
- Europe of Nations 55
- Non attached 31

The Spitzenkandidaten speak

The candidates to become the next European Commission president are speaking in the wake of the final vote estimates.

Manfred Weber of the European People's Party has said his door is open to agree a new,stable coalition - but not one that will include the far left and far right:

"We are facing a shrinking centre. We will not support any candidate who did did not run as a Spitzenkandidat.

I don't see a majority against the Liberals, Socialists or the EPP...I would call on us to join forces."

Frans Timmermans, of the centre-left, called for progressive parties to form an alliance and acknowledged the losses for his party group.

"We have more than 150 seats in this parliament and this gives us the chance to do something positive. We need to build a coalition on the basis of a programme. Then we can play Game of Thrones over the jobs."

"I want to work with parties that know we need to make bold decisions on the climate crisis, on the need to tax companies that don't pay tax. The only ones I've said I don't want to work with is the extreme right."

Margrethe Vestager of the Liberals called for a gender balanced commission, and celebrated gains for her centrist alliance that will include En Marche. She also hinted at a deal that would exclude the conservative EPP.

"I have worked with breaking monopolies. This is what voters have done today. There is room for talks in the coming days that are different to what we had before, and a different composition of the top jobs".

Labour's losses

The FT's Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne writes in on Labour's troubles in the UK's biggest cities and pro-Brexit regions from tonight's vote:

The initial results for the Labour party in Britain paint a troubling picture of its future. In metropolitan parts of the country such as Islington in north London – the home patch of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn – it has been beaten by the Liberal Democrats, who ran on a fervently pro-Remain message.

But in pro-Brexit parts of the land, such as the north east of England, its voters have drifted to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party. It appears that by sitting on the fence with its stance reguarding leaving the EU, Labour is tearing up its long-standing voting coalition – which brought together metropolitan middle class voters in cities with working class voters in the provinces.

One Labour grandee said:"[Jeremy] Corbyn himself is apparently shaken by the Islington result. He thinks he’s been let down by the leaders’ office. But others are saying Corbyn is killing Corbynism.

Mr Corbyn tried to have it both ways: promising to deliver Brexit, but also to put any deal negotiated by the Conservative government to a second referendum. For the last three years, this position mostly worked. But in these European elections, which have been dominated by Brexit and little else, it has ended up pleasing no one.

There will now likely be a big push from some quarters of the party to fully back a second referendum. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, summed up this argument: “These are really bad results for Labour...we were not clear on the one single thing people cared about.” Expect plenty of infighting over the next few days about where the party goes next.

Wrapping up for the night

We're still counting in the UK but the rest of the EU's estimates are in. We'll be wrapping up the live blog for the night and will be back for 7am Monday morning to sweep up the rest of the results and reactions. Here's the FT's take on events tonight:

A diffuse alliance of pro-EU parties largely held their ground in Sunday’s European elections, after a bruising battle with anti-establishment groups that saw Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche narrowly defeated in France.

With indications of turnout rising for the first time in 40 years, early estimates produced by the European Parliament suggest voters returned a more fragmented pro-EU majority, with traditional centre-ground parties losing seats to Greens and Liberals. Eurosceptic and far-right parties made modest gains but remained roughly a quarter of MEPs.

The results across the EU’s 28 member states will have a decisive impact on the political direction in Brussels for the coming five years, determining the parliament’s stance on sensitive issues such as green taxes and international trade deals. They will also weigh heavily on the race for the bloc’s top jobs.

If the estimates are confirmed, it would spell the end of the centre-left and centre-right majority that has held sway in the parliament since 1979, giving way to a more divided pro-EU bloc that will include up to four parties.

Good morning

We are back to catch up with events overnight and assess the state of European politics this morning, after the second-biggest democratic exercise in the world (India's elections are the largest). More than 400m people were eligible to vote in the elections, which started on Thursday and concluded yesterday. Votes were still being counted overnight.

The state of play

Here's what we know so far:

Pro-EU parties have largely held their ground in the face of a threat from anti-establishment groups across the continent, according to the European Parliament’s early estimates of the results;

Traditional centre-ground parties have lost seats to the Greens and Liberals; Eurosceptic and far-right parties made modest gains but are set to take roughly a quarter of MEP seats;

The early indications suggest that voting patterns have become more fragmented, which could spell the end of the centre-left and centre-right majorities that have held sway in the parliament for the last four decades;

Turnout rose, bucking a 40-year downward trend, and topped 50 per cent of eligible voters for the first time since 1994;

In the UK, the Brexit Party has picked up the most seats with the Liberal Democrats and Greens also putting in strong performances; Labour and the Conservatives have both lost a large proportion of their seats in what proved to be a night of reckoning for the biggest UK political parties.

Official results in France confirm narrow far-right victory

Our correspondent Victor Mallet in Paris reports:

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National beat President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal Renaissance alliance, which includes his governing La République en Marche party, by less than a percentage point in the French voting, according to official results on Monday from the interior ministry.

The narrow victory for the RN gives the parties the same number of seats in the European Parliament - 23 - assuming Brexit is completed. Without Brexit, the RN wins 22 seats and Renaissance 21.

Headed for the election campaign by the 23-year-old activist Jordan Bardella, the RN scored 23.31 per cent of the French vote - slightly less than its winning tally in the previous European vote in 2014 - against 22.41 per cent for Renaissance under Mr Macron’s former Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau.

The results showed a strong performance by the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, the French greens, with 13.47 per cent. It also confirmed the collapse of the traditional left-wing and right-wing parties of French politics: the centre-right republicans won only 8.48 per cent and the French Socialists just 6.19 per cent.

The only other party to cross the 5 per cent threshold required to hold seats in the European Parliament was the far-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed), with 6.31 per cent.

Sterling shines

Well, you don't see this one every day ... at least not recently.

Sterling is kicking the week off on a strong note, gaining both against the US dollar and the common currency. The rise comes as investors weigh results of the European Parliament elections, both in the UK and in Europe.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was poised to score a victory, with the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats in second-place. The Conservative party was on course to finish fifth, with just 10 per cent of the vote, behind Labour and the Greens.

Just after 7am in London, the UK pound rose 0.2 per cent both on the greenback and the euro, to $1.2735 and €1.1363 respectively.

It is a market holiday today in both the UK and US, both major centres for currency trading. That means volumes are likely to be light, potentially magnifying moves in the FX market.

Explore the results so far

Our interactive team has crunched all the data that's coming out from national counts, and you can check out their visual display of the results here.

The race for the Commission

The elections are the first step on the road to Europe's top political jobs, in particular the chairmanship of the European Commission. While the EPP remains the biggest group in the parliament, its diminished size may hamper Manfred Weber, its lead candidate, in making a claim to the presidency.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Weber argued that pro-EU parties were “facing a shrinking centre” and needed to stick together.

Other group leaders by contrast were quick to stress the need to forge a broader alliance that broke the EPP’s dominant position in Brussels. Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner and liberal election candidate, said voters had “broken the monopoly” of power within the EU.

Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Green group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament the Greens are now indispensable.” 

European stock futures on the rise

European equities markets are set to kick off the day on an upbeat note, with investors paying close attention to the results of EU elections.

Here's a quick breakdown of how futures are looking ahead of the open in half an hour:

*Continent-wide Stoxx 600 +0.43 per cent
*German Dax +0.46 per cent
*French CAC 40 +0.68 per cent
Bank holiday in the UK

Far-right and nationalist parties were poised to make significant gains in the European Parliament elections. But the pro-Europe centre appears to have held. Goldman Sachs reckons "Eurosceptic populist groups will increase their seats share, gaining 173 seats or 23 per cent of seats in the parliament."

Ulrich Leuchtmann, currencies analyst at Commerzbank, said: "Europe has been to the polls. The result is much less anti-EU than could have been feared."

Looking for a quick-read on the results? Ben Hall's Instant Insight is a good place to get started.

Farage looks to UK election

Our political editor George Parker reports that Brexit Party leader (and former UKIP MEP) Nigel Farage, who has just been re-elected to the European Parliament, is already looking ahead to consolidate his gains at a domestic level:

Nigel Farage tells the BBC's Today programme that his plan is for the Brexit Party to fight the next general election.

"It's a heck of a job," he admitted. He said he would not believe a new Tory leader who promised to take Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal.

"It's a hugely ambitious thing to do, but we're going to try," he said. "The two-party system now serves nothing but itself."

Salvini hails Italian results

Our Rome correspondent Miles Johnson has some reaction from Italy's Matteo Salvini:

“Only five years ago the newspapers were talking about the League being extinct. Now we are the biggest party in the north, and the south [of Italy],” he said. “It is not only the League that is the first party in Italy. Marine Le Pen is the biggest party in France. Nigel Farage has the biggest party in Great Britain. It is a sign of a Europe that has changed."

But while he made sure to pay lip service to his party’s role in galvanising Europe’s nationalist right, it was the domestic impact of his victory that had put beaming smiles on the faces of his advisors at the League’s Milan headquarters.

The result - which before the final count indicated Mr Salvini’s anti-migration party had taken over 30 per cent of the vote - formally confirms the transformation of the League from a fringe northern separatist party polling in low single digits into a truly national force.

In doing so Mr Salvini has established himself as the dominant figure on Italy’s political right, banishing ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s long-fading Forza Italia party to its worst-ever result in national vote since it was formed in 1993.

More immediately the result is likely to have an important impact on the future of Italy’s populist coalition government made up of the League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which has lost its crown as Italy's biggest party in painful fashion.

Mr Salvini success has come as support collapsed for his partners and rivals. Having won 32 per cent of the national vote in general elections last year the Five Star Movement was on track to win less than 20 per cent in the European election, slipping into third place behind the centre left Democratic Party.

Mr Salvini, who in the run up to the vote had been engaged in increasingly acrimonious infighting with the Five Star, immediately attempted to calm the situation in the wake of his victory, declaring that the coalition would stay together regardless. “As far as I am concerned nothing should change at the national level,” he said.

UK Lib Dems enjoy their gains

The FT's George Parker reports on the latest reaction from Westminster:

Jo Swinson, a contender to succeed Vince Cable as leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, said it was "an excellent" night for her party, which polled 20 per cent.

She said it would put pressure on Labour "to get off the Brexit fence" and join the Lib Dems in calling for a second EU referendum.

"Labour have had an atrocious night," she said.

Kaczynski's nationalist group poised for strong win in Poland

The FT's James Shotter reports from Warsaw:

With 99.31 per cent of votes counted in Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party was on course for a better than expected victory in an election that all parties are hoping to use as a launchpad for Polish parliamentary elections due in the autumn.

Powered by a booming economy, generous social transfers, and the relentless backing of state-controlled media, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's conservative nationalist grouping was on course to win 45.6 per cent of the vote - a strong showing in elections that have traditionally been difficult for his party.

The opposition European Coalition - a pro-European grouping of five parties centred around Civic Platform - was on course for 38.3 per cent. Spring - a new left-wing party founded by Robert Biedron, was on track for 6.04 per cent.

Konfederacja, a new coalition of far right and nationalist groups that had been forecast to win over 6 per cent in last night's exit poll, had fallen to 4.6 per cent, meaning it was unlikely to make it across the EU parliament's 5 per cent threshold.

Analysts' reaction: Eurosceptics failed to break through

The FT's Joshua Oliver has been parsing the reaction of market and economic analysts to the election results, and reports:

Eurosceptic parties failed to make the big gains some expected in this vote, according to analysts examining the results this morning.

“The wave of populist and anti-establishment Right remained contained,” analyst Lorenzo Codogno wrote in a note early today. He expects right-wing eurosceptics to stop short of 24 percent of seats, with left-wing anti-Europeans below 10 percent.

ING analysts shared this view, writing that “the often-feared rise of EU-skeptical parties has not materialized”, while Barclays analysts wrote that mainstream parties are “holding their ground over populist movements”.

In addition, ING said the eurosceptics are unlikely to unite into a reliable block in this parliament due to their splits on migration and foreign policy.

Still, ING said the parties’ modest gains “provide a signal that eurosceptic parties are here to stay” and that their impact could be seen on a local level.

Mr Codogno added that the persistence of anti-European elements in the parliament may change its political dynamics, writing: “It is not clear whether Parliament will be divided into the traditional Left-Right political families or in a new cleavage between pro-/anti-EU integration.”

Disappointment for Germany's ruling parties

Our correspondents Guy Chazan and Tobias Buck in Berlin reports:

Germany’s Social Democrats have suffered their worst result in a national election since the second world war, as the Greens pushed them into third place for the first time and cemented their status as the rising force in German politics.

The results were also a big disappointment for Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union. Together with its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, its share of the vote slumped by 6 points to 29 per cent, a historic low, according to official results. The Greens surged to 21 per cent, almost doubling their result from the last European Parliament elections.

But the SPD was the big loser, its vote share plummeting by more than 11 percentage points to 16 per cent. The centre-left party also suffered a stinging defeat in the northern city state of Bremen where it was beaten by the CDU for the first time in more than seven decades. The Social Democrat share of the vote in its former stronghold fell 8 percentage points to 25 per cent, while the CDU rose 4 points to 26 per cent.

The SPD is now expected to come under mounting pressure from the grass roots to pull out of the governing “grand coalition” with internal critics arguing that it has little prospect of recovery as long as it serves as junior partner to the CDU in Berlin. The alliance, they argue, has blurred the party’s profile and encouraged left-leaning voters to back rival parties.

However, most party leaders along with a majority of members of parliament are committed to staying the course — at least for now. They point out that the SPD has promised to reassess its role in the coalition government at the end of this year, and argue that it makes little sense to have that debate now.

European stocks climb at the open

And we're off...

Continental bourses are climbing with analysts and investors generally relieved by preliminary results from parliamentary elections that suggest Europe's centre held.

Here's a look at how things stand just after the open:

• European Stoxx 600 +0.46 per cent
• German Dax +0.58 per cent
• French Cac 40 +0.53 per cent
• Italian FTSE Mib +0.2 per cent
• Spanish Ibex 35 +0.67 per cent
Bank holiday in UK

Marco Valli at UniCredit said the results were "market friendly".

He sums it up as such:

The outcome of the European Parliament elections was broadly in line with expectations. Pro-EU parties secured a clear majority of total seats, although parliament looks more fragmented than it did five years ago, with traditional center-right and center-left groups losing seats to Liberals and Greens, and Eurosceptic parties increasing their share of votes.

Low turnout in the UK's Brexit heartlands

Our north east England correspondent Chris Tighe reports that these elections do not seem to have attracted the same turnout from eurosceptic voters as the 2016 referendum did. She writes:

The 2016 referendum was remarkable in mobilising people in poorer areas who had given up voting. By contrast, in north east England turnout this time suggests that those areas have gone back to most people not voting - or at least not seeing much point in voting for MEPs that they don't want to have anyway.

In Hartlepool - which was the 13th highest Leave-voting share nationally in 2016 (69.6 per cent voted Leave on a 65.6 per cent turnout) saw turnout in these 2019 EU elections of just 25.5 per cent.

Redcar and Cleveland, the north east's second-highest 2016 Leave vote, had a 29.7 per cent turnout for these EU elections. Middlesbrough, the third highest north east Leave vote in 2016, had a 25.8 per cent turnout this time.

The north east average turnout was 32.7 per cent this time.

In contrast, in Newcastle, the only one of 12 local authority areas in the north east of England to vote Remain in 2016, the turnout in these EU elections was 38.8 per cent, much higher than anywhere else in the region.

This of course, makes the strong overall Brexit Party result all the more striking.

Brexit Party storms to UK victory

Here is our latest report from our Westminster political team, on a night that exposed Britain's stark Brexit divides. They write:

Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party has stormed to victory in the European Parliament elections in the UK, as support for the Conservatives and Labour collapsed on a night when Britain’s deep divide over the EU was starkly exposed.

Mr Farage’s party had won 32 per cent of the vote with results from nine out of 10 UK regions declared, but the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats surged to second place with 20 per cent — reflecting the polarisation of public opinion.

With votes shifting en masse to parties which either favoured a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum to reverse Brexit, the prospect of a Westminster compromise looked more remote than ever.

Conservatives and Labour were eviscerated as pro-hard Brexit parties — Brexit and Ukip — polled 35 per cent, while anti-Brexit parties — Lib Dems, Greens, Change UK, SNP and Plaid Cymru — polled a combined 40 per cent.

The big losers on the night were the Conservatives, whose vote slumped to 9 per cent, prompting warnings from Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson that the party risked being “dismissed from office” unless it delivered Brexit.

Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary and another challenger for Theresa May’s job, said the Tories faced “an existential threat”, on a night where the Brexit party won most votes in the prime minister’s Maidenhead constituency, pushing the Conservatives into third.

The party’s Eurosceptic MPs and Tory activists will now clamour for a new leader to take on Mr Farage by promising to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, if necessary without a deal.

Spain: liberals fall short of ambitions

Ian Mount, our correspondent in Madrid, reports:

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez pushed the liberal Ciudadanos party to negotiate a coalition with his PSOE socialists after Ciudadanos won 12 per cent in the European elections but fell well short of its ambition to displace the traditional centre-right People’s Party (PP) as Spain’s second biggest party.

PSOE won 32.8 per cent and the PP took 20.1 per cent in the European elections.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera had supported Mr Sánchez’s failed 2016 bid for the premiership but more recently had moved to isolate Mr Sánchez — ruling out governing with him after April's general election — and positioning Ciudadanos as the leader of the right-wing opposition. Ciudadanos objected to Mr Sánchez’s alliance with Catalan separatist parties during his previous administration.

After Sunday’s elections, Ciudadanos is positioned to be a junior partner in PP-led governments in the city and region of Madrid, as well as in several other regional governments. But the Madrid governments will require a coalition with the new far-right nationalist Vox party, which would clash with Ciudadanos’s place in the European ALDE group.

“In those places where the PSOE has won the elections but cannot govern, it will be because the PP and Ciudadanos form coalitions with the ultra-right. It’s time to lift the quarantine on the PSOE, which has won the elections roundly,” Mr Sánchez said late Sunday night, referring to Mr Rivera’s refusal to form coalitions with the PSOE. “I appeal to the responsibility of our political leaders not to leave governance in the hands of the extreme right.”

Spain’s two newest parties fared poorly Sunday.

The socialists’ leftist ally, Podemos, flopped at the polls, taking 10.1 per cent in the European polls, down from the 18 per cent it took combined with other left-wing parties in 2014, and losing mayoral coalitions in Madrid and Barcelona.

And while Spain’s new far-right Vox party entered the European Parliament for the first time, with three seats, it took only 6.2 per cent of the vote, a sharp drop from the 10.3 per cent it received in the general election in April.

"A night that lived up to the hype"

Our Brussels team have published this morning's Brussels Briefing, which is a bumper edition. Last night was "a night that lived up to the hype", they say.

They write:

The constellation of the new European Parliament may not have transformed radically but the steady dissolution of the EU's dominant blocs will set the tone for Brussels policymaking and its new batch of politicians for the next five years.

Key themes that our Brussels team have identified include peak populism v the Green wave; flirt with the far-right, get burnt; turning the tide on turnout; Macron is still a winner; Brussels is the gift that keeps on giving to Nigel Farage; the maths of picking the president; the domino effect - domestic ramifications; and Silvio Berlusconi is back - he has been elected as an MEP.

A more fragmented legislature

Our Europe editor Ben Hall analyses the results. He concludes:

One lesson from the elections, where turnout was the highest in 20 years, is that pro-Europe voters were ready to switch parties to make their voice heard. 

The Green waves in Germany and France will reverberate. And in the UK, the combined vote share of pro-Europe parties was significantly ahead of the hardcore Brexiters. European politics is in tumult, but it is not all moving in the nationalists’ favour.

Can Italy’s coalition government survive?

The FT's Joshua Oliver has been reading the main analysts' views on the picture in Italy. He writes:

Analysts are divided on the likely fate of Italy’s coalition after yesterday’s vote. Strong results for Matteo Salvini’s League party and falling support for their coalition partner the 5 Star Movement, previously the larger of the pair, has fueled speculation that Mr Salvini may force an election to capitalise on these gains.

Former chief economist at the Italian treasury Lorenzo Codogno wrote this morning that Mr Salvini is most likely to stay in the coalition “with a sharp rebalancing of power”, although he “may still pull the plug from the government” if he thinks he can win a majority in coalition with other right-wing groups.

ING analysts agree that an election is now less likely in the short term because Mr Salvini’s party gained less than they had hoped — although they anticipate tensions over the national budget.

Barclays anticipates that the Italian result “will likely be perceived negatively on the margin by markets”. 5 Star is still strong enough to limit the League’s “reasonable growth-friendly fiscal policies,'' the analysts wrote.

In contrast, UniCredit analysts expect the government to fall sooner rather than later, writing: “the difficulty in finding a new balance of power between these two parties increases the likelihood of a collapse of the government in the next months.”

Austria's Kurz garners strong support in European election

Austria's mainstream conservative party enjoyed a strong showing in European elections, suggesting the chancellor Sebastian Kurz has maintained popular support despite a deep scandal that has engulfed the government. Mr Kurz faces a no-confidence vote in Austria's Parliament later today.

The FT's Sam Jones reports:

Preliminary results, not including postal ballots, showed Mr Kurz’s People’s Party had increased its share of the vote by 8.4 percentage points to 35.4 per cent — its strongest ever European parliamentary result.

The victory came at the expense of both the Social Democrats, who dropped 0.5 percentage point to 23.6 per cent, and the far-right Freedom Party, which saw its vote fall by 1.6 percentage points to 18.1 per cent. 

The surge of support comes amid a significant rise in turnout this year compared with 2014.

Mr Kurz has said he still expects to lose a vote of no-confidence that was tabled by lawmakers last week, as Austria faces what local media has described as the deepest political crisis since the second world war.

You can read about Austria's election result here.

Pro-Europe coalition poised for victory in Slovakia

James Shotter, the FT's central European correspondent, reports on the election results in Slovakia:

In Slovakia, the elections were won by the liberal, pro-EU coalition of Progressive Slovakia and Spolu, in the second straight electoral victory for the central European nation's progressive forces after Zuzana Caputova won the presidential election in March.

According to figures released on Sunday, Progressive Slovakia and Spolu, which will join the ALDE and EPP caucuses in the European parliament respectively, won 20 per cent of the vote. Smer, the left-wing grouping controlled by former prime minister Robert Fico, came second with 15.7 per cent, while Marian Kotleba's extreme right LSNS grouping won 12.1 per cent.

The result is a remarkable victory for PS and Spolu, both of which were only founded within the last 18 months, and the latest sign of how Slovakia's politics have been upended by the murder of the investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, last year.

The brutal murders shocked the 5.4m-strong nation, and ultimately forced Mr Fico, who had dominated Slovak politics for a decade, to stand down as prime minister. Smer's weak showing in the European poll - its worst result in a national vote since 2006 - underscores the battle the party will face to retain its hold on power in Slovakia's parliamentary elections, due to be held early next year.

Martin Dubeci, from Progressive Slovakia, told the FT that the success of his party and Spolu was a reflection of voters' desire for a new politics in Slovakia. "It's similar to the dynamics we saw in Zuzana [Caputova's] campaign. People are longing for a change in the style of politics, and we've been able to show this in our approach to the European topic in general," he said.

"We were openly pro-European, we didn't have this campaign of saying: "Ok we are European, but..." that you see in other [central European] countries... We see that there is a mobilisation of the pro-European part of society right now, which is very exciting and good for us."

UK Labour: 'we took a hit'

The UK Labour party's shadow chancellor John McDonnell has called on his party to back a fresh Brexit vote.

https://twitter.com/johnmcdonnellMP/status/1132911401750679552

For those who don't have access to Twitter, it says: "Can’t hide from hit we took last night.Bringing people together when there’s such a divide was never going to be easy. Now we face prospect of Brexiteer extremist as Tory leader & threat of no deal, we must unite our party & country by taking issue back to people in a public vote"

Expect more polarisation on Brexit: analysts

Voters have punished UK political parties that tried to find a middle-ground on Brexit and rewarded those with clear positions on either side, according to analysts interpreting last night’s vote.

Labour and the Conservatives were “punished for the impasse in the UK parliament and their mixed messages on Brexit”, Unicredit analysts wrote in a note this morning, while smaller parties with clear positions prospered. This result is expected to put more pressure on the Tories to back a no-deal exit, and to push Labour towards a second referendum.

Dismal results for the two biggest parties in Westminster “should really put a rocket under them” Commerzbank analysts wrote, making it hard to imagine a further delay to Brexit from the current October departure deadline.

German governing parties set to meet today

Our correspondent in Berlin Tobias Buck writes:

The leaders of Germany’s embattled governing parties will meet in Berlin today to discuss the political fallout of the European elections, with the centre-left Social Democrats in particular facing intense pressure to change course after a disastrous showing on Sunday night.

Official results showed the SPD losing more than 11 percentage points compared to the last European ballot in 2014. With just 16 per cent of the vote, the Social Democrats were comfortably beaten by the Greens, the rising force on German politics, who almost doubled their previous result to 21 per cent.

Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc of Christian Democrats and the Bavarian Christian Social Union emerged as the winner, with 29 per cent of the vote, but was also down notably - by more than 6 points - compared to 2014.

The CDU/CSU and SPD renewed their so-called grand coalition government last year, but have long worried about the electoral price they are paying for their unpopular accord. Few expect the Merkel government to fall apart at this stage, but analysts and party officials alike warned on Monday that the coalition was heading for a rocky period.

Lars Klingbeil, the SPD secretary general, descibed the result as “crushing” in an interview with the ARD network on Monday. He pointed to climate change policy and digitalisation as two issues where the party had to strengthen its programme. But he also repeated his appeal to fellow party leaders not to start a debate about personnel - part of a broader effort by senior SPD officials to shore up the position of party chief Andrea Nahles.

Robert Habeck, the co-leader of the Greens, told a press conference on Monday: “This exceeded all our expectations...We have moved into the centre of the political debate.”

Paul Ziemiak, the CDU secretary general, voiced disappointment with the result, but insisted that there was no reason to call into question the candidacy of the CSU’s Manfred Weber for the job of European Commission president: “The result we received yesterday does not leave us satisfied but it is all the same a clear mandate for Manfred Weber as Commission president,” he told ARD.

Macron accelerates negotiations over top EU posts

Our correspondent Victor Mallet in Paris reports:

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist prime minister, to dinner at the Elysée palace in Paris on Monday night as negotiations over candidates for the top EU posts accelerate following the European elections.

The Elysée said Mr Macron would also meet other European leaders over lunch in Brussels on Tuesday before an informal EU summit in the evening.

The president’s French liberal alliance was narrowly beaten into second place by the far-right Rassemblement National of Marine Le Pen in the French vote, but it enters the European Parliament for the first time with more than 20 seats and expects to be at the forefront of a liberal grouping that will influence the choices to head the European Commission, the Council, the central bank and the parliament itself.

Mr Macron has already met Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Antonio Costa of Portugal in Paris in recent weeks. He called German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday night and will meet prime ministers from the Visegrad group - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - on Tuesday.

Nigel Farage's good day: a look at the Brexit party's strong showing

FT Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne reports:

Nigel Farage set high expectations for European elections and has met them. His new Brexit party was founded just weeks ago, yet it has come first in the UK with 29 MEPs within the new European Parliament. It is a remarkable feat, whether you welcome its presence or not.

As expected, the Brexit party garnered most of its votes from disaffected Conservative voters, but also from Labour in its heartland constituencies outside of the big cities. Significant parts of England, Scotland and Wales who voted to leave backed them to make the point they still want to leave the EU. If there happens to be a general election this year, the two established parties should be concerned about the impact this new force could have on their vote.

Mr Farage surpassed the performance of his old UK Independence Party in the 2014 Euro elections. He has called on his 29 MEPs to be part of the UK’s Brexit negotiating team, arguing that his party has elected “men and women of considerable experience”. It’s a nifty soundbite but it’s hard to see this actually happening. That difficult task will be in the hands of the next British prime minister.

“Never before in British politics has a party just 6 weeks old won a national election," Mr Farage said last night. “If Britain does not leave the EU on October 31, these results will be repeated at a general election. History has been made. This is just the beginning.”

Eyes will now turn to a by-election in June 6 in Peterborough, where Mr Farage is hopeful of returning his first MP to the House of Commons. The Leave-supporting town voted heavily for the Brexit party in these elections.

The Brexit party may turn out to be a pop-up party that achieves little else. But for Mr Farage, it has sent the clear message last night it was founded to make.

Image source: Reuters

'The message is clear': UK Tories react

Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the most prominent hardline eurosceptics in the UK Conservative Party, reacted to the election results overnight by congratulating his sister, who was elected as an MEP for the Tories' rival the Brexit Party. He also said that the message from voters was "clear" that the UK should leave the EU - "no more equivocation".

https://twitter.com/Jacob_Rees_Mogg/status/1132915685020061696

"Many congratulations to Annunziata on her amazing result. The message is clear Brexit must be delivered with or without a deal on 31st October. No more equivocation."

Other Conservatives have also been commenting on the results.

https://twitter.com/johnredwood/status/1132910392219504640

John Redwood: "A new Prime Minister should say to the EU we will leave immediately, offering free trade talks on exit. Lets have a Brexit budget to boost our economy with tax cuts and increased spending on public services from all the money we save. 3 times now the voters have voted to leave."

https://twitter.com/OwenPaterson/status/1132910343209005061

Owen Paterson: "Clear lesson from these results. The Withdrawal Agreement is dead as the @Conservatives were the only Party promoting it. The UK must now leave the EU by 31st October, ideally with an FTA agreed in principle but, if necessary on WTO terms with practical side deals already agreed."

Kurz faces no-confidence vote this lunchtime

Our correspondent in Vienna Sam Jones reports:

A surge in support for Austria’s mainstream conservative party in European elections is unlikely to save the chancellorship of Sebastian Kurz.

Both of Austria’s largest opposition parties, the Social Democrats and far-right Freedom Party have promised to back a no-confidence vote against Mr Kurz in Vienna on Monday lunchtime. The two parties command the votes between them to force the chancellor from office.

Mr Kurz had already said on Sunday morning he expected to lose the vote - though that was before the scale of his party’s victory in yesterday’s European elections became clear.

With turnout in Austria for the European elections up from 45 per cent in 2014 to 58.8 per cent, many are already characterising the vote as a significant popular mandate for Mr Kurz.

Preliminary results, not including postal ballots, showed Mr Kurz’s People’s Party had increased its share of the vote by 8.4 percentage points to 35.4 per cent — its strongest ever European parliamentary result.

The victory came at the expense of both the Social Democrats, who dropped 0.5 percentage point to 23.6 per cent, and the Freedom Party, which saw its vote fall by 1.6 percentage points to 18.1 per cent.

Late on Sunday, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the leader of Austria’s Social Democratic Party, the second largest bloc in parliament, confirmed the party would press ahead in support of the vote against the chancellor.

Norbert Hofer, the new leader of the Freedom Party confirmed his MPs had also voted to support ousting Mr Kurz as a bloc on Monday morning.

Italy: Salvini's gains lay groundwork for an election

Our Rome correspondent Miles Johnson writes:

The large gains for Matteo Salvini's League means, on paper at least, he now has the right numbers to make a right-wing coalition work if he could reproduce last night's result at a future general election.

The League's 34 per cent of the vote combined with Forza Italia's 8.8 per cent and Brothers of Italy 6.4 per cent would give any putative rightwing coalition just under 50 per cent.

Meanwhile the collapse for Mr Salvini's current coalition partners, the Five Star Movement, mean that its options are severely diminished.

Even a tie up between Five Star and the centre left Democratic Party - something both have for now ruled out - would only get them to just under 40 per cent.

UK: fallout among breakaway rebel MPs

The MPs who quit leading UK parties to form the breakaway Change UK grouping have been reacting to the results - and there's a disagreement about their tactics in this election.

PA reports:

Anna Soubry, the party's Brexit spokeswoman, accused leader Heidi Allen of "bizarre" behaviour for suggesting their supporters engage in tactical voting.

Change UK secured just 4% of the vote after rushing to register as a party in time for the European contest.

Former Tory minister Ms Soubry said "over 600,000 people went and voted for us, a genuinely new party" which was an "extremely good" result, she claimed.

But she criticised Ms Allen, telling BBC Radio 4's Today: "I think it is rather bizarre for an interim leader on the eve of a poll to tell people essentially not to vote for their party."

Mocking the idea, she said: "You do not stand candidates and then say to people 'we are going through a complete farce, please don't vote for them'.

"Let's engage now in big, grown-up politics."

Ms Allen has previously revealed she offered to quit as a result of the spat over whether to support Liberal Democrat candidates outside London and the South East, saying that "had it been left to me, I would have absolutely advised tactical voting".

Former Tory MP Ms Allen acknowledged that her party needed to learn from what went wrong in the European Parliament elections before the next general election.

She said Change UK should "work with other right-minded parties like us that are pushing for Remain".

"The country has to come first, it is not about the brand, we must come together," she said.

How the race for the Commission presidency will work

The presidency of the European Commission is elected using the "Spitzenkandidat" system, meaning top candidate or party list leader. It was first tried out in 2014 and propelled Jean-Claude Juncker to the EU’s top job.

The process involves the big pan-European parliamentary parties each putting forward a top candidate for the commission presidency before the vote. The eventual winner must convince a qualified majority of leaders of EU national governments, the European Council, to nominate him or her for the commission post. Then, the nominee will need to command support from the newly elected parliament of MEPs, essentially by building a coalition of supportive groups. 

The stand-out leader in the race so far has been Manfred Weber, the centre-right Bavarian.

Yet some European capitals still struggle to take him seriously. The 46-year-old, a top-to-toe product of the parliament, is attempting an unprecedented feat in Brussels. He would not only be the first German president in half a century, but the first with no executive experience at any level of a national government.

His rivals are circling, waiting for Mr Weber to stumble. One senior EU diplomat likened his candidacy to a Bauernopfer, a pawn sacrificed for advantage in a longer chess game. But for that to be the case, somebody must move to knock out Mr Weber.

Italy's nationalists benefit in richest regions

Miles Johnson in Rome reports:

Are national populists parties the home of the poor and disenfranchised? Not in Italy. The League won 43 per cent of the vote in Lombardy and 50 per cent in Veneto, two of the country's richest regions. Meanwhile the Five Star Movement failed to mobilise its support in its strongholds in Italy’s poorer south, costing the party dearly at the polls.

Smiling Farage dominates UK front pages

The FT's Joshua Oliver has been looking at this morning's newspapers. A grinning Nigel Farage made an appearance on most front pages following his Brexit Party’s big win in the vote.

Mr Farage is pictured jubilant and clapping along with supporters on page one of the Guardian, next to the headline “Tories and Labour savaged as voters take revenge over Brexit”.

The Daily Telegraph ran the headline “Humiliation for Tories” next to a more restrained shot of Mr Farage smiling. Tory leadership front-runner and Telegraph columnist Boris Johnson topped the page with the quote: “If we go on like this, we will be dismissed”.

The Times of London showed Mr Farage with a Cheshire cat grin and the top line: “Farage surge sends main parties into meltdown".

Finally, the Daily Mail showed Mr Farage and Mr Johnson nose-to-nose, anticipating a showdown over a no-deal exit from the EU.

European stocks edge higher

Our FastFT team have been looking at the markets, which are showing signs of a slight rally.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 rose 0.5 per cent; Germany’s Dax 30 was up 0.6 per cent; in France the Cac 40 climbed 0.5 per cent; Italy’s FTSE Mib added 1.3 per cent; and Spain’s Ibex 35 rose 1.1 per cent. In London, the FTSE 100 was closed for the bank holiday. Trading in the euro against the dollar was little changed, meanwhile. 

Commission president choice unlikely before the autumn: Danske

Fractious politics in the new parliament is likely to delay the selection of the next EU Commission president until September or October, Danske Bank analysts wrote in a note this morning, Joshua Oliver reports.

The new president could be picked by July "if the political process is smooth", the analysts wrote. But the new parliament is more fragmented, making a delay more likely.

It's up to EU leaders to nominate a candidate, but the parliament must approve their choice.

Greek debt in sharpest rally since late 2017

Greece's government bond prices are roaring higher after prime minister Alexis Tsipras said he would call a general election following his Syriza party's poor showing in European elections.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield dropped 32.6 basis points (0.326 percentage points) to 3.036 per cent, the lowest level on records stretching back to 2000, according to Bloomberg data. It marked the biggest fall in yield since December 2017.

Greek stocks also rallied, with the FTSE index of the country's biggest companies up 4.7 per cent in morning trade.

The general election will probably take place either in June or July, said Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics.

"Opinion polls suggest that New Democracy, which is more business-friendly and pro-European than Syriza, will win," he said.

Only a small share of Greek government debt is traded regularly on public markets, something that can make daily swings particularly abrupt.

Labour party faces civil war over Europe

Our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reports:

Civil war has broken out inside the Labour party, with Jeremy Corbyn – for the first time in a long time – looking dangerously exposed.

With Labour losing a huge chunk of the vote to the more clearly “Remain” parties - Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru – Mr Corbyn is under pressure to shift towards an outright backing for a second referendum. But even if he does so, will he have left it too late to win back some of those voters?

Overnight the Labour leader issued a statement saying that “this issue will have to go back to the people”, either through a general election of a public vote. “Labour will bring our divided country together,” he said, echoing his message throughout the European election campaign.

That sounds a lot like the existing fudge of a policy which has got the party into trouble in recent days.

Mr Corbyn did say “we will have conversations across our party and movement” over the coming days. But some of the most senior members of his shadow cabinet are now openly calling for Labour to back a second referendum, full stop: they include Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, and John McDonnell, shadow chancellor.

Mr McDonnell’s apparent support for an unequivocal second referendum position is particularly striking as he is Mr Corbyn’s oldest political ally. He argued that it was time to unite the country by “taking the issue back to people in a public vote”, saying Labour couldn’t hide from the “hit” it took last night. “Bringing people together when there’s such a divide was never going to be easy.”

But there are still senior figures close to Mr Corbyn urging him to hold the line, mindful that shifting to a pure Remain position could cost support in the party’s heartlands in northern England and the Midlands. A majority of the party’s target seats at the next election voted Leave.

Len McCluskey, the all-powerful general secretary of Unite the Union, urged colleagues to “hold our nerve” and wait for a general election. “Labour losing votes, as we expected,” he tweeted. “But these elections aren’t relevant to where we are now.”

Greece's Syriza counts its losses

Our correspondent in Athens Kerin Hope reports:

The scale of the losses incurred by Greek ruling party Syriza have proved too much for an increasingly unpopular government to handle in its final months in office.

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras threw in the towel on Sunday night after exit polls showed the party trailing the centre-right New Democracy by almost 10 percentage points, a record gap for a Greek election according to analysts.

Most opinion polls ahead of the vote gave the conservatives a lead of between 5.5 and 8 percentage points.

Mr Tsipras has called a snap election to be held next month, probably on June 30th.

He said that Syriza' s performance "did not meet expectations" while Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the conservative leader, had earned "the right to question the course we took in order to exit the crisis".

Both leaders campaigned intensively for the European election but issues of concern to other EU citizens such as immigration and the rise of the far right took second place in what was seen as a test run for the Greek general election.

Given the short time available for campaigning, Mr Mitsotakis had "a good chance of building momentum further and achieving a solid overall majority" said a veteran electoral strategist who declined to be identified.

But a conservative analyst warned that the Syriza leader is a "formidable and flexible election opponent" who transformed a left-wing splinter group into a mainstream political party in the space of less than three years.

"Tsipras is a street fighter and we can't afford to be complacent," he said.

Near-final results gave New Democracy 33.3 per cent of the vote to 23.7 per cent for Syriza. The Movement for Change (Kinal) came a distant third with 7.2 per cent. The old-style Greek communist party, with 5.5 per cent, beat the far-right Golden Dawn into fifth place with 4.9 per cent.

Turnout was 57 per cent, in line with Greek voters' usual participation rate in elections.

UK: Labour's McDonnell backtracks on fresh Brexit vote

The FT's Jim Pickard reports:

Already John McDonnell has started to backtrack on his earlier tweet, presumably after some "friendly conversations" with the leader's office. Now he is trying to argue that his demand for a "public vote" could cover a wide range of permutations of voting events.

"So people are absolutely clear what I am saying. Of course I want a general election. But I realise how difficult this is to secure.I will do anything I can to block no deal Brexit. So yes if,as likely GE not possible, then I support going back to the people in another referendum," the shadow chancellor said in a follow-up tweet.

One ally of Mr Corbyn said that Mr McDonnell used the phrase "public vote" to cover either a general election - which is still the Labour preference - or a referendum.

France: Macron's project in doubt, say analysts

The FT's Joshua Oliver reports:

French president Emmanuel Macron’s domestic and European agenda suffered a blow from the EU parliament results, analysts believe. The far-right, eurosceptic National Rally party of Marine Le Pen narrowly bested the president’s pro-Europe Renaissance list by one percent of the vote and one seat in the new parliament, according to estimates.

Danske Bank analysts wrote that this results for the French president calls “into doubt his grand plans for domestic reforms and further EU integration”.

ING adds that the result “will put pressure on President Macron at home”, but notes that Renaissance will join the liberal ALDE group, which will become the third-largest faction and is likely be influential in new parliamentary coalitions.

Ms Le Pen’s party also slipped slightly from its results in the last EU poll, ING wrote.

Germany: Weber's presidency claim 'strengthened'

The FT's Guy Chazan in Berlin reports:

The leader of Germany's CDU party Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Sunday's election had strengthened Manfred Weber's claim to the presidency of the European Commission.

She said the CDU/CSU's goal in the election was to be the strongest German party and to give Mr Weber a "tailwind" from Berlin "so it's clear that he's our lead candidate and he is our man for European Commission president. And we have achieved this goal."

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, popularly dubbed AKK, said that the CDU had backed the Spitzenkandidat system from the start. "And if the results confirm that the EPP is the strongest group in the European parliament, then that should reinforce Manfred Weber's claim to leadership of the European Commission."

She said that the CDU would not hesitate to back the German government in "supporting Manfred Weber in Brussels".

Government reshuffle expected in Poland

The FT's James Shotter has some more details on what is expected to come next in Poland:

Poland's ruling Law and Justice party is likely to carry out a reshuffle within the coming days, the top aide to prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday, after the party racked up a convincing win in last night's European elections.

Several ministers from the ruling camp won seats in the European Parliament, and Michal Dworczyk said in an interview with TVN24 that they had to decide imminently whether or not to take up their mandates. "Looking at the rules, it seems to me that [the reshuffle] will have to take place within the next 14 days," he said.

The four ministers from the ruling camp expected to head to Brussels are former prime minister Beata Szydlo, interior minister Joachim Brudzinski, education minister Anna Zalewska, and Beata Kempa, a minister in the prime minister's office. Patryk Jaki, deputy justice minister, also won a seat.

Mr Dworczyk said he did not know whether the reshuffle would extend beyond those ministers departing for Brussels, but that Mr Morawiecki and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the founder of Law and Justice, were discussing how to proceed.

Portugal: ruling party well positioned for national election

Peter Wise, the FT's correspondent in Lisbon, reports:

Portugal’s ruling Socialist party (PS) emerged from the European vote well positioned to win re-election in an October general election after defeating the centre-right opposition with the best result for a sitting government in two decades.

António Costa, the prime minister whose “anti-austerity” pact with the far left has proved popular with voters, said the victory had given the PS “renewed energy” for fighting the general election campaign in the coming months.

The PS won 33.5 per cent of the vote to elect 10 of Portugal’s 21 MEPs, up from 26.6 per cent and 8 MEPs in 2014. The centre-right Social Democrats (PSD), the main opposition party, polled their worst result to date in any European or general election with 22.2 per cent.

The anti-capitalist Left Bloc, which supports the minority PS government, more than doubled its vote to 9.7 per cent to win two seats, up from one previously. The old-guard Communist Party (PCP), which also backs the government, lost one of its two seats.

Mr Costa made clear he would seek to renew the left-wing pact if re-elected, saying a centrist “grand alliance” between the PS and PSD “would not be healthy for democracy”.

The Portuguese prime minister, who expressed his support for Emmanuel Macron, the French president, during the European election campaign, said it was important to have a “democratic and progressive front” in the European Parliament.

“I know it’s sexy to talk about the extreme right,” he said, “but it elected 57 MEPs out of 751. Attributing value to what is an ultra minority on a European scale does a terrible service to democracy.”

Against the European trend for higher turnouts, only 31.4 per cent of the Portuguese electorate voted, a record low.

UK: "Brexit compromise forces lose out"

Robert Shrimsley has been mulling the implications of the outcome of the UK's vote. He concludes that both Labour and the Conservatives will now find themselves at the mercy of hardliners.

The results will strengthen the hand of Brexit hardliners in the Tory leadership contest and Labour Remainers seeking to push their party policy towards a second referendum, he writes:

Voters have chosen clarity over compromise. The two sides of the Brexit argument are entrenched. Both Labour and the Conservatives are going to find it increasingly difficult to hold their party members in check. Both are likely to gravitate towards the poles of Leave and Remain.

UK: dire result for disaffected centrist MPs

The FT's Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne reports:

While the Brexit Party performed well in its first electoral test, the UK’s other start-up group has done rather less well. Change UK, the gang of disaffected centrist MPs who fled the Labour and Conservative parties earlier this year, has failed at its first electoral hurdle. The new party has returned no MEPs and is set to come a lowly eighth in the national vote share.

These results are dire for a party hoping to capitalise on the country’s anti-Brexit angst. Change UK polled 3 per cent nationally - way off fulfilling its hopes of returning a handful of Remain-supporting MEPs. In London, where the party should be at its strongest, it received 5 per cent, behind all the other major parties. In the south London borough of Lambeth, one of the most strongly Remain-supporting parts of the country and home to its prominent MP Chuka Umunna, it came in behind the Brexit Party.

Change UK made numerous mistakes in the run-up to these elections. It has gone through a variety of names, including The Independent Group, For Change Now and the Remain Alliance. Its logo and branding was generic and inconsistent. Its messaging was confused. Its logo was designed on the laptop of one of its members the night before it was due to be submitted.

The problem for Change UK was trying to run before it could walk. The party was too keen to establish itself as a fresh force in British politics; to be something more than just the party of Remain. Nigel Farage was focused entirely on this specific electoral race; Change UK were thinking too much about the future.

The other big mistake was failing to strike a “Remain alliance” with the other pro-EU parties. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who have exceeded expectations in these elections, were once eager for such a deal. Had some kind of non-compete clause been agreed, the number of Remain-supporting MEPs would have likely equalled those of the Brexit Party.

Change UK seems oblivious to how deep this failure is. Heidi Allen, its interim leader, insisted on Friday morning that “it went really really well”. Change UK MP Chris Leslie said that “every journey starts with a first step”. At this rate, the party has a very, very long journey ahead.

Talk will turn to whether Change UK will merge or do a deal with the Liberal Democrats. Given that the two parties occupy the same intellectual space and are appealing to the same voters, it should do. But given their success in the local and Euro elections, the Lib Dems might no longer want them.

UK: more Labour calls for fresh referendum

The pressure is mounting inside the UK's Labour party for a clearer Brexit stance. Sir Keir Starmer, the party's shadow Brexit secretary, has spoken out on Twitter in favour of a fresh referendum:

https://twitter.com/Keir_Starmer/status/1132937492439736320

https://twitter.com/Keir_Starmer/status/1132937553621979138

He said:

"It’s no use trying to hide from these very disappointing results. We need to reflect hard and listen to our members, supporters and voters. The only way to break the Brexit impasse is to go back to the public with a choice between a credible leave option and remain."

"But as we move forward on this, we must remain united and able to speak to and for the country as a whole whichever way people voted in 2016."

Labour MEP warns party about next general election

Chris Tighe, the FT's north east England correspondent, reports that the Labour ructions are continuing:

Jude Kirton-Darling, who is the only Labour MEP in north east England to retain her seat, has said that these results are a final warning if Labour is to win the next general election.

In her acceptance speech she said that the result had shown the weakness of Labour's position on Brexit.

"People don't know what we stand for," she said. " I have had to convince Labour Party voters to vote for us."

Without naming him, she castigated the Brexit Party's Brian Monteith as a man who lives elsewhere in the EU, "benefiting from the free movement he wants to strip from young people". She also attacked Nigel Farage.

But her strongest message was a warning to Labour itself. "By not fighting this election with all our political might we have left space for others," she said.

She added: " Tonight's result is a final warning that things must change if we want to win the general election."

After her speech she said that Labour needed to sort out its position on Brexit. Asked what it should be, she said: "It needs to be pro-European and pro-confirmatory vote."

Asked if she was hopeful this would ultimately be the party's position, she said with a rueful smile, "Reasonably."

Ireland: Green surge but disappointment for ruling party

Our Ireland correspondent Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

The rise of the Greens was the big story in Ireland as Leo Varadkar, premier, left open the prospect of a snap general election later this year despite disappointing results for his centre-right Fine Gael party.

The Green surge saw the party top the European poll in Dublin as it also made big advances - albeit from a low base - in local authority elections that were held on the same day as the European poll. The European count started on Sunday but it could be mid-week before before it concludes.

Polls suggest Mr Varadkar’s party is battling to retain its four European seats after failing to make the significant gains it had projected in local elections. Mr Varadkar said modest local gains were “less than we hoped for quite frankly”, on a day in which the opposition Fianna Fáil party retained its dominance of local government and had a strong performance in Dublin.

Several government and opposition MPs are in contention for European parliament seats so by-elections now loom for Mr Varadkar as seats in the national parliament cannot be left empty for longer than six months. In the countdown to a 2020 general election, this presents a challenge to Mr Varadkar as Irish governments rarely win by-elections.

Despite threats to Ireland from the rising risk of a no-deal Brexit in October, there is speculation that the taoiseach might call a snap election rather than face multiple by-elections. He has kept his options open, insisting now is not the time for an early general election but saying he “can’t rule it out”.

The Green breakthrough came as support for the opposition Sinn Féin party slumped, losing dozens of local authority seats as it battles to retain three European seats. “It’s a disappointing round of election for us,” said Mary Lou McDonald, who succeeded veteran leader Gerry Adams last year. “Our vote is down. We’re down substantially, certainly since the last round of local elections five years ago which was a surge election for Sinn Féin.”

A 'harsh wake up call' for Corbyn's Labour party

Jim Pickard, the FT's chief political correspondent, reports on the backlash against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the party was beaten by Liberal Democrats in the European elections.

Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire from his own MPs before, most famously in 2016 when they rose up against him after the original EU referendum result. Back then 80 per cent of MPs signed a petition calling for him to step down that summer – and over 60 frontbenchers resigned. But he went on to defy them, winning a leadership challenge from Owen Smith.

The difference this time – if MPs mount a fresh assault – is that on the issue of the EU, he is out of step with his own grassroots. A vast majority of Labour members, even those still sympathetic to Mr Corbyn, want another referendum.

Tom Watson, the deputy leader – and opponent of Mr Corbyn – has issued a survey today to find out what members and supporters want to do next on the Brexit issue.

Mr Watson knows full well what the likely result will be. “Following the disastrous EU election results, Labour urgently needs to re-think its Brexit position and realign with members and voters,” he said overnight. “For Britain’s sake we must find our voice and fast.”

MPs are already expressing their anger about the result, in which Labour slumped far behind the Liberal Democrats. Until a few months ago, the Labour leadership had presumed that the Lib Dems were a spent force in British politics: their revival has taken the main opposition party by surprise. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said there would not be a Labour government unless the party could bring back today’s lost votes. “The Tory vote has collapsed in London, but Labour finishing behind the Liberal Democrats should act as a harsh wake up call,” he said.

Mr Lammy said Labour had tried to “ride two horses” in the European elections. “We fell flat on our faces and got trampled. We now need to get our act together and campaign boldly and proudly for Remain.”

Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor to Tony Blair when he was Labour prime minister, voted Lib Dem in the election. He warned that the “coterie” around Mr Corbyn needed to “smell and coffee and wake up” or they would consign the party to “oblivion”.

Mr Corbyn has been trying to “triangulate” between Remainers and Leavers, not least because 35 out of 50 target seats at the next general election backed Leave in 2016.

Some Labour MPs in Eurosceptic constituencies – who are not “Corbynistas” – have come out in the last few hours to remind people of the dangers of a unilaterally Remain position.

Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley, said the leadership needed to take note of the rise of the Brexit Party: “I want to hear Labour spokespeople reflect on what is happening in our heartlands like Wakefield,” she said. “Alistair Campbell seems unmoved that Labour got 16 per cent of the vote across Yorkshire & Humberside, losing to the Brexit Party in our Labour heartlands here and elsewhere.”

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon in South Wales, said no-dealers and advocates of a second referendum had fought each other to a standstill. “Labour must keep fighting for a general election and for a deal that honours the referendum result,” he said.

Italy: Salvini hails victory as a mandate to renegotiate fiscal rules

Our Rome correspondent Miles Johnson reports that Italy's League party is treating its election triumph as a mandate to reopen talks with Brussels over its spending plans:

Matteo Salvini said that his League party's election victory showed that Italians had provided him with a mandate to "calmly renegotiate" fiscal rules with a new European Commission.

"I am convinced that the new European Parliament and the European Commission will be friends with Italy - the geography of Europe has changed," he said at a press conference on Monday morning.

"A letter from the European Commission on the economy of our country is coming and I think that the Italians are giving a mandate to me and the government to calmly renegotiate old and outdated parameters".

UK's far right fail to make a dent

Andrew Bounds, our north of England correspondent, reports:

The far right made little impression in the UK's elections. Tommy Robinson, the anti-Islam activist whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, polled just 2.24 per cent of the vote in north west England, where he was standing as an independent candidate.

He received 38,908 votes - not enough to retain his deposit - and social media companies for cutting off many of his channels. During the campaign there were several scuffles between his supporters and anti-racism campaigners.

His main contribution was to unwittingly start the practice of milkshaking after a man threw one over him after a heated debate in Warrington. A man subsequently threw a milkshake over Nigel Farage in Newcastle and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin has also been a target.

The Brexit party won 31.2 per cent of the votes in the north-west election, with three MEPs elected including the former revolutionary communist Claire Fox.

Labour fared better in north west England than elsewhere with 22 per cent while the Liberal Democrats got 17.15 per cent. Both now have two MEPs. The Greens got one.

The Conservatives received just 7.55 per cent of the vote in the region and lost two MEPs. Notably, the Liberal Democrats won in Trafford, which until Brexit had been an oasis of Conservative support in Greater Manchester.

UKIP, which has ties to Mr Robinson although he is not a member, got 3.6 per cent.

Who are The Brexit party?

Andrew Bounds, our north of England correspondent, takes a look at some of the notable Brexit party winners:

There are now two Rees-Moggs holding elected office – though on different teams.

Annunziata stormed to victory with the Brexit party in the East Midlands region. She has tried to become a Tory MP like her brother Jacob, but failed in the past. Now she is an MEP – though for only a short time if the party gets its way and the UK leaves the EU as soon as possible.

Other notable Brexit party winners were John Longworth, a co-founder of the party and former director-general of the British chambers of commerce, and Richard Tice, its chairman, in the East of England.

Anne Widdecombe, the former Tory minister, was elected in South West England.

Mr Longworth tweeted this morning that the vote had sent a “clear message to the establishment”.

“The Brexit Party was the winner in every district in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire apart from York. No 1 in Harrogate and Leeds which previously voted Remain. In England and Wales the Brexit Party won in every region except London.”

https://twitter.com/john4brexit/status/1132917458162114561

Austria: Kurz under fire

Our correspondent in Vienna Sam Jones reports on fresh reaction to the upbeat performance by Austria's ruling People's Party. Its chancellor Sebastian Kurz faces a vote of no-confidence in parliament this lunchtime.

"This is a clear backing for the [government's] course," said People's Party MEP Karoline Edtstadler, adding that regardless of the outcome of the no confidence motion, chancellor Kurz had emerged "really strengthened".

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the leader of Austria’s Social Democratic Party, the second largest bloc in parliament, said the party would support the vote against the chancellor. "Kurz's goals and the interests of the country are not aligned," said Ms Rendi-Wagner this morning in a statement. "On the contrary: Sebastian Kurz has acted exclusively in his own self interest. His actions have nothing to do with responsibility."

Many in the Freedom Party - Mr Kurz's erstwhile coalition partners - are meanwhile still furious with him for ejecting them from government. Posting on his Facebook profile on Monday, the ousted interior minister Herbert Kickl accused Mr Kurz of establishment croneyism. "Loyalty is the order of the day," he said, confirming he would vote against the government. "Mr Kurz, where was your statesmanship when you blew up this successful government?"

UK pound turns negative

Well, that was short-lived.

Sterling has turned decidedly negative against the US dollar with Brexit uncertainty once again taking hold.

Britain's currency was down 0.2 per cent against the buck at $1.2690. It had risen as high as $1.2755 earlier in the session. It also surrendered its gains against the common currency, leaving it at €1.1330.

Kit Juckes at Société Générale sums up the situation:

Brexit makes UK voters look increasingly out of touch with the issues that matter in the rest of Europe.

The focus moves on to the Conservative Leadership election, but the UK is increasingly isolated. Hopes that better terms are available in negotiations about the Withdrawal Agreement got no support at all.

Scotland: SNP's Sturgeon hails "fantastic" result

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, has hailed the election results as "fantastic".

With almost all the results in from Scotland, the SNP seems likely to win three of the six Scottish MEP seats - with Scottish Labour losing its two MEPs - according to PA reporting.

Results from 31 of the 32 councils across Scotland showed the SNP, which fought the election campaign on a strong pro-European platform, had polled 37.7 per cent. The party's previous best Euro election result was 32.6 per cent in 1994.

Speaking during a visit to Dublin on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon said: "It's an absolutely fantastic result from my party's perspective. We didn't just win the election, we are polling 20-plus points ahead of our nearest rivals, it's astonishing, astonishing for any party, but our party has now been in government for 12 years.

"So as well as being a very clear anti-Brexit vote, I think it's an endorsement of our party's record in government."

Corbyn says public will need to decide on Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn has said the public will need to decide on the course of Brexit, either through a general election or a second referendum.

The Labour leader told the BBC the UK has become "very divided," according to wire accounts of his comments.

The remarks come after Labour, the main UK opposition party, came in third in European elections, following Nigel Farage's newly-formed Brexit party and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The ruling Conservatives had a particularly rough run, garnering just 8.71 per cent of the vote (see chart below).

Top image source: Getty

Scotland: Labour 'may never recover'

Two Labour MPs have warned that the party "may never recover" from the drubbing it has received in the elections in Scotland, PA reports.

Ian Murray and Martin Whitfield said Scottish voters had "delivered an utterly damning verdict" on the party - which lost its two MEPs from Scotland and fell from second to fifth in the polling.

Mr Murray, the Edinburgh South MP and his East Lothian colleague Mr Whitfield, insisted the results must act as a "wake up call" for Jeremy Corbyn and the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News, the two MPs said: "The European election results are by far the worst results in Scottish Labour's long and proud history.

"There is no way to sugar-coat this - the people of Scotland have delivered an utterly damning verdict."

Voters had told them that "they felt they had no choice other than to back explicitly pro-remain parties instead of the Labour Party," they added.

David Martin, who was the UK's longest serving MEP, having spent 35 years in Brussels, was voted out of office on Sunday. He blamed Labour's failure to take a clear stand on the crucial issue of Brexit for the result.

Mr Martin tweeted: "We lost not because of lack of effort but lack of clear message."

A look at today’s front pages across Europe

The FT's Joshua Oliver has been reviewing the newspapers across the continent.

In France, Le Monde’s special edition ran with “Macron and Le Pen assure their domination”, pointing to the Rassemblement National and La Republique en Marche as the new poles of two-party politics. But Libération focused on the success of a third party, quipping: “The Green Shoots”.

Germany’s papers also picked up on the Green surge. Süddeutsche Zeitung was headlined “Greens become the second biggest party for the first time”, while Die Welt wrote “SPD and CDU suffer heavy losses, Greens second largest party”.

Italy’s La Repubblica ran the ominous headline “Dark Shadows”. Its front page mentions Matteo Salvini’s win, a “green wave”, record turnout, and the Democratic Party passing the 5 Star Movement in the vote. Il Giornale also mentions the DP’s jump, and foreshadowed trouble for the League-5 Star coalition with the headline “Goodbye Government: electoral earthquake”.

The UK's Brexit split

This chart from our live results page, which you can find here, illustrates perfectly the Brexit conundrum in the UK, with the heavy caveat that the turnout for the European Elections (37%) was just over half of the Brexit referendum (72%) in 2016. The big question is how would the votes of the battered and bruised "big" two parties - Conservative and Labour - break down between Leave and Remain? Moreover, the chart excludes the Scottish National Party, which if its vote share was added into the Remain side it would lift the total by 4 percentage points.

Jail sentence for Romania's ruling party leader

Although a number of European politicians have been left scratching their heads following the results, we can safely say that no one will be having a worse day than Romania’s Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, reports the FT’s Valerie Hopkins from Budapest.

After leading his party to its worst result in history yesterday, today Mr Dragnea was sentenced to three and a half years for a corruption case. The verdict is final and he has no chance of parole.

The PSD came in second place, garnering 25 per cent of the vote, a significant decrease from the 45 per cent it won in the 2014 European elections when former premier Victor Ponta led the party.

German Greens reject Weber for top Commission job

As expected, the stand-out leader in the race to become the next European Commission president - Manfred Weber (pictured below), the centre-right German MEP for Bavaria's CSU, is coming under pressure from the German Greens, after the environmental party's strong showing in the polls.

Reinhard Bütikofer, a German MEP and co-chair of the European Green Party, has expressed serious misgivings about Mr Weber’s suitability for the role at a Politico event this morning, writes the FT's Joshua Oliver.

“Voters gave us a mandate for change”, said Mr Bütikofer who criticised Mr Weber for not stressing the need for change in his comments on the night of the vote.

Mr Bütikofer also critiqued past European parliaments for making environmental policy a “talking point” rather than an “action point”. He said the Greens will now insist that Europe “walk the walk” on the environment.

Earlier today, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of the CDU, the larger sister party of the CSU, which together with the SPD, form Germany's governing coalition, insisted Sunday's election had strengthened Mr Weber's claim to the presidency of the European Commission.

The Greens in Germany are on a high after becoming the second biggest party in the European elections by almost doubling their share of the vote to 21 per cent compared with 2014. In contrast, the CDU/CSU, while still the largest bloc saw its share slip by more than 6 points to 29 per cent.

Tory chairman rejects mounting Labour pressure for a second referendum

This is what the Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis had to say after a number of Labour politicians — among them Emily Thornberry — suggested Labour should now support a second referendum and campaign to Remain:

Jeremy Corbyn’s top team have made it clear Labour have no interest in delivering on the referendum result. Labour promised to respect the Brexit vote, but rerunning the referendum would completely tear up this pledge. Only the Conservatives will respect the referendum result and deliver Brexit. Labour would send us right back to square one.

Italy's League eyes top job inside European Commission
Beyond the domestic impact of Matteo Salvini’s decisive election victory, discussion in the country has begun over which top jobs inside the new European Commission the League leader might have his eyes on, reports Miles Johnson from Rome.

Matteo Salvini (pictured below) said on Monday: "We [Italy] are going to ask for an economics commission ... agriculture, competition or trade", rejecting other roles in a somewhat disparaging way as "philosophy" commissioners.

Vincenzo Boccia, president of Confindustria, Italy’s influential industrial employers confederation, offered a different view of what would be a prime spot for the country: "Our government must aim to have a commissioner for industry, the internal market, trade or competition — others would be Serie B”.

EPP calls for centrist to unify against extremists

Dara Murphy, vice-president and campaign director of the EPP, called for unity among the centrist, pro-European groups to face down the far-left and far-right.

Speaking at a Politico event in the wake of his own centre-right group losing 38 seats, Mr Murphy, an Irish MP for the Fine Gael party, said: “I think we have an obligation to create a large, unified, stable block”.

Some of the far-left and far-right’s policies “for the future of our continent should frighten us all”, Mr Murphy said.

Both Mr Murphy’s EPP and the other traditionally dominant group, the Socialists, dropped in last night's vote. The two parties will have to partner with at least one other group to command a majority in the new parliament, likely the Greens or the Liberals.

He also reiterated the EPP's support of the Spitzenkandidat system, in which the parliamentary groups each nominate a single candidate for presidency of the European commission.

“It's not perfect, but it should be respected,” he said, signalling that the EPP remain committed to their candidate, Manfred Weber.

Meanwhile, a senior figure in the ALDE liberal group hinted that her party will demand a more even split of EU leadership roles between different political groups following its strong result in the vote last night.

Slovenia's Violeta Bulc (pictured below), the current European commissioner for mobility and transport, said one problem of the EU in recent years has been that all key posts were held by the EPP.

Following this election, she said, “we will have a much better balance of power”.

Theresa May calls election results "very disappointing"

In her first response to the European election results, the outgoing prime minister said on Twitter:

A very disappointing night for @Conservatives. Some excellent MEPs have lost their seats, some excellent candidates missed out. But Labour have also suffered big losses. It shows the importance of finding a Brexit deal, and I sincerely hope these results focus minds in Parliament

https://twitter.com/theresa_may/status/1132973543157841920

This was Mrs May's first public comment since announcing her resignation as Conservative leader on Friday.

The Conservative party secured just 9.1 per cent of the votes, their worst electoral result on record. The party won just four seats, compared to the Brexit party's 29.

Nate Silver: UK pollsters missed LibDem/Green surge

US election analyst Nate Silver has taken to Twitter to point out that UK pollsters "significantly underestimated" the rise in support for the two UK pro-Remain parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. They also slightly overestimated support for the Brexit Party.

https://twitter.com/NateSilver538/status/1132990198529372161

He also points out that the polls also "substantially overestimated support for the two traditional parties, Labour and the Conservatives."

If you want to access the charts that go with the Tweet please click through to Twitter.

Austrian chancellor set to lose the vote of confidence

Sam Jones, our Switzerland and Austria Correspondent, is in Zürich, keeping a keen eye on the debate preceding the vote of no confidence against Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

The knives are out for Mr Kurz after last week's so-called "Ibiza Affair" a scandal involving accusations political graft and Russian subterfuge that led to the resignation of the far-right Freedom Party leader Hans Christian Strache and the ejection of his party from coalition with Mr Kurz.

Mr Kurz is all but certain to lose the vote of confidence in his minority government when voting takes place later — at around 17:00 — despite a resounding victory for his moderate conservative People's Party in yesterday's European elections, which increased its share of the vote by 8.5 percentage points to its highest ever level at 35 per cent.

Furious Freedom Party MPs have been calling for Mr Kurz's head all week. Together with the Social Democrats, who blame Mr Kurz for bringing the Freedom Party in the first place, they have the votes to achieve it today.

The speeches from all sides going on right now, however, are all being made with an eye on the real prize: September's national election, called as a result of the scandal last week. As such, both the Freedom Party and Social Democrats are at pains to stress their responsibility and statesmanship. Mr Kurz, who now has a big popular mandate behind him, has a natural position of strength against them. Sat in parliament watching the entire debate, he has been a model of calm under pressure.

Head of Podemos fights back criticism after grim results

Our man in Madrid, Ian Mount, says Pablo Iglesias, head of Spain’s anti-establishment party Podemos, is trying to share responsibility for his party’s grim results in the European and local elections. The party won 10.1 per cent in the polls, down from the combined 18 per cent it took with other left-wing parties in 2014.

Podemos-linked parties also lost control of the city halls of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s two biggest cities, and in the 12 regional governments that held polls Podemos received a combined 860,000 fewer votes than in 2015.

Meanwhile, the socialists of prime minister Pedro Sánchez, a Podemos ally, posted impressive results.

Here's Mr Iglesias:

It’s clear that our results are not good, and I congratulated the PSOE for the magnificent results they had. But let’s be clear, we together were not been able to win the region of Madrid, and we lost the city. I think we and the socialist party should reflect on this.

Mr Iglesias also blamed some of the left’s problems on the infighting of which he has often been the center. In recent months, he and his Podemos co-founder and former close friend Iñigo Errejón fought over strategy and split when Mr Errejón announced that he was forming a new party with Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena, only advising Mr Iglesias minutes beforehand.

“We need to leave behind the childishness, which has done us a lot of damage,” Mr Iglesias said.

Despite Podemos’s weak showing, Mr Iglesias pushed for Mr Sánchez to form a progressive “governing bloc” at local, regional, and national levels. While he did not reiterative his pre-election stance that it would be “common sense” for him to be a minister in Mr Sánchez’s government, he continued to push for his socialists to include Podemos. “I know our role will be modest, but it can make the difference,” he said.

Boost for Northern Ireland centrists

Northern Ireland’s cross-community Alliance party is well-placed to take a European seat for the first time, in a boost for centrist politics in the region and anti-Brexit campaigners, reports Arthur Beesley, the FT's Ireland correspondent

Naomi Long, Alliance leader, (pictured below) came third in the initial count with 18.5 per cent of the vote, a huge jump since local elections earlier this month in which her party almost doubled its support to take 11.5 per cent of the vote.

The result puts her in a strong position to take Northern Ireland’s third and final seat after the anti-Brexit Martina Anderson of Sinn Féin, who topped the poll, and the pro-Brexit Diane Dodds of the Democratic Unionists, who came second.

In a region with politics dominated by sectarian tensions between pro-UK unionists and Irish nationalists, the centrist Alliance claims to be neither unionist nor nationalist. Northern Ireland has sent two unionists and one nationalist to the Strasbourg assembly since 1979 so the prospect of the party taking a European breaks new ground.

Ms Long, who wants the UK to stay in the EU and is campaigning for a second referendum, had cast the European election as an opportunity for Northern Ireland send two remain MEPs to Strasbourg. The region voted remain by 56 per cent to 44 per cent in the 2016 referendum, a faultline that was mirrored in European election votes.

The final result will be determined later on Monday under a proportional representation voting system in which vote preferences transfer from candidates with the lowest support as they are eliminated from the count.

But Ms Long is best placed to win the third seat with 106,000 first preference votes, almost double the 53,052 secured by the Ulster Unionists, who have held a seat in Strasbourg for 40 year.

Disgraced Austrian politician could be on his way to Strasbourg

The FT's Sam Jones says expectations are mounting in Vienna that Heinz-Christian Strache, the disgraced former leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party may have secured enough direct preference votes to be elected to the European Parliament.

Mr Strache was ousted just ten days ago as Austria's vice chancellor after a video emerged appearing to show him offering government contracts as bribes in an attempt to solicit heavyweight political support from Russia.

Mr Strache was also seen referring to journalists as "the biggest whores on the planet" and the West as "decadent" compared to Russia.

The video revelations, known in Austria as the "Ibiza Affair", have plunged Austria into political crisis, with the government of moderate conservative Sebastian Kurz likely to fall today as a result, despite strong support for him from voters in yesterday's EU elections.

The Freedom Party saw its share of the vote slip 1.6 percentage points to 17.2 per cent.


Mr Strache (left) was placed last on the official list of Freedom Party candidates. But any candidate can be elected if enough voters write their name specifically on their ballots.

Mr Strache has already been confirmed to have received 22,000 such direct votes. He needs 33,000 to be sent to Strasbourg. Projections by pollsters in Austria say Mr Strache is on course to receive around 37,000 votes according to well-followed political journalist and researcher Martin Thür.

Di Maio: Five Star has lessons to learn following vote

Luigi Di Maio, leader of Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said he would stick with the country's coalition government alongside Matteo Salvini's League in spite of suffering a sharp fall in support at yesterday's elections, reports Miles Johnson from Rome.

"The government contract does not change," Mr Di Maio said on Monday. "I thank the 4.5 million who voted for the Five Star Movement, and I also thank those who did not vote for us because we learn from their behaviour and take a good lesson from it".

The Five Star saw its share of the vote collapse to 17 per cent, effectively demoting it to junior partner in its coalition with the League, which took 34 per cent.

The Five Star had been Italy's largest party in last year's general elections with 32 per cent but now finds itself in third place, behind both the League and the centre left Democratic Party.

Drilling down into UK results at a local level

There are some fascinating results in the UK at local council level writes Andy Bounds, the FT's North of England correspondent. They are swallowed up by the regional picture but highlight the divisions between many cities and their immediate neighbourhood.

The Greens topped the poll in Bristol, in the Brexit-voting Southwest, as well as Brighton where they have an MP.

Rushcliffe, represented in parliament by Tory Remainer Sir Ken Clarke, opted for the Liberal Democrats. Just 13 per cent voted Conservative. Sir Ken was one, though he predicted many of his fellow MPs would back the Brexit party or abstain.

Birmingham, one of the few big cities that voted to leave the EU in 2016 (albeit by 50.4 per cent) stuck with Labour. The party won 35.2 per cent with the Brexit party polling 24 per cent. Across the wider West Midlands region the Brexit party got 37.6 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile in Leicester, where half the population is from ethnic minorities, Labour polled 47 per cent, higher even than Liverpool’s 40.3 per cent, although still a five per cent drop on 2014.

Weber unlikely to be next European parliament president, says EU politics analyst
Our Europe editor Ben Hall has just spoken to Catherine de Vries, professor of politics at the Free University Amsterdam and a leading expert on the European parliament.

This is what she had this to say about Manfred Weber's chances of becoming the next European Commission president.

It doesn't look that good for Weber. The CDU didn't do that well. The EPP didn't do very well. His support for [Hungary's] Fidesz hangs over his candidacy. He is a white German male. He doesn't have that much going for him.

Javid joins race to become next UK PM

Meanwhile, after Theresa May said on Friday that she would step down as Tory party leader on 7 June, Seb Payne, the FT's Whitehall correspondent, reports that Sajid Javid has become the ninth candidate to declare he is running for the post that would see the winning candidate takeover as PM.

The Home Secretary launched his campaign on Monday afternoon with a short video, stating he would be “a leader who is always straight” with the country.

“My message is simple: it’s time to rebuild trust, to find unity and to create new opportunities for our country,” he said.

Mr Javid referenced the Conservative party’s results in the European Parliament elections, where it came fifth with its worst performance in 200 years. He said that the antidote was to resolve the Brexit crisis.

“As last night’s result made all too clear, we must get on and deliver Brexit to ensure there is renewed trust in our democracy. We must bridge to heal communities, reminding us of our shared values as a United Kingdom.”

Mr Javid, a second generation immigrant who grew up on what one newspaper described as "Britain's most dangerous street", referenced his backstory - a theme that will likely play a significant part in his campaign.

“I entered politics to do my best for this country. The country which has done so much for me. As prime minister I would strive to achieve that ambition every single day.”

The campaign to be the next party leader and prime minister already includes former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, environment secretary Michael Gove and health secretary Matt Hancock.

International development secretary Rory Stewart, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and the former leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom have also announced their plans to run.

According to the betting markets, Mr Javid's odds are 33/1 to be the next leader behind eight other Conservative MPs. A recent survey by YouGov suggested that nine per cent of Tory party members saw Mr Javid as their first choice to be their next leader.

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Austrian government falls following no confidence motion against Kurz

After three hours of increasingly rowdy debate unprecedented in Austria’s second republic, lawmakers have passed a non confidence motion against the government of Sebastian Kurz, reports Sam Jones, our Switzerland and Austria correspondent.

President Alexander Van Der Bellen must now form a new cabinet. The president is likely to form a technocratic administration which will run the country until elections are held in September.

The vote comes after Mr Kurz’s conservative People’s Party won a huge victory in the European polls on Sunday.

The Social Democrats and far right Freedom Party voted together on Monday to deliver a majority against Mr Kurz.

Here's Sebastian Kurz shaking hands with the president of Parliament Doris Bures.

Italy's League and UK's Lib Dems biggest winners in EU elections

The FT's data team has looked at which national parties have made the greatest contribution to their national groupings in the European parliament.

Italy's League comes on top with a net gain of 22 MEPs compared to six in the outgoing parliament.

Second we have the UK's Lib Dems, fresh from a surge in support following the evisceration of Labour and the Conservatives, the biggest losers of the night.

The Brexit party added a net 11 MEPs to their grouping in addition to the seats that Ukip already held in the outgoing parliament.

Centrist parties in Europe have also suffered big losses. As well as Labour, we have Italy's Partito Democratico which lost 13 seats. Voters in Spain and France did not take kindly to EPP members Partido Popular and Les Republicains taking a nativist turn.

How Brexit influenced the big 2 parties' missing voters

Lord Ashcroft, one of the UK's leading independent pollsters, has released a lovely graphic (see below) that shows how voter preference changed for these European elections based on how they voted in the 2017 general election.

He explains on Twitter:

From my Euro-election post vote poll: 53% of 2017 Conservatives who turned out on Thursday switched to the Brexit Party; 12% went to the Lib Dems. Only 21% stayed with the Tories.

38% of 2017 Labour voters stayed with Labour. 22% went to the Lib Dems, 17% Green, 13% Brexit.

Here's his Tweet:

https://twitter.com/LordAshcroft/status/1133016212156428291

We're wrapping up

We are bringing our live coverage to a close after an eventful 24 hours which overall saw pro-EU parties hold their ground against anti-establishment groups.

Turnout rose for the first time in 40 years, as voters returned a more fragmented pro-EU majority, with traditional centre-ground parties losing seats to Greens and Liberals. Eurosceptic and far-right parties made modest gains, securing roughly a quarter of all MEP seats.

The fragmentation of the vote had immediately repercussions as European leaders began manoeuvring to secure the EU’s top jobs. A big clash looms between Paris and Berlin over the candidacy of Manfred Weber, the favourite to become the next European Commission president, whose centre-right alliance emerged as the biggest group.

In the UK, plunged into a political crisis over Brexit, Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party stormed to victory, as support for the Conservatives and Labour collapsed on a night when Britain’s deep divide over the EU was starkly exposed.

But the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats surged to second place with 20 per cent while other Remain parties - the Greens and the SNP in Scotland - also had a strong showing. Excluding Northern Ireland, which is due to report later today, the Remain parties, when taken collectively, won about 38 per cent of the vote, against 34 per cent for the two hard Brexit parties.

To keep up with further developments please visit our European Parliament elections landing page. Thanks for joining us.

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