(Bloomberg) — The failure of populist parties to score a big win in European Parliament elections is likely to dash the hopes of leading contenders to be next U.K. prime minister that Brussels will soften its stance on Brexit.
Runners to replace Theresa May, including Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, say they want the European Union to reopen negotiations on the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement and grant concessions on the contentious backstop arrangement for the Irish border. Conservative politicians suggested a shake-up in the balance of power in Europe, and a surge in anti-establishment support, would help their cause.
But, while the mainstream center-right and center-left parties have seen their share slump, their votes have largely transferred to other pro-EU groups. Although parties inspired by Brexit, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, scored well domestically, right-wing populist groups will still make up only about a quarter of the new European Parliament.
That means that the center-ground parties of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Council President Donald Tusk will still hold sway and have the loudest voice in the appointment of their successors. They have repeatedly said they will not revise the Brexit deal and nothing in the European Parliament election results suggests that EU unity will start to crack now.
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