European election 2019: Brexit Party tops poll in Wales

Wales MEPs on stage

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Wales MEPs are Nathan Gill (front, centre) James Wells (second right) Jill Evans (left) and Jackie Jones (right)

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party now has two Welsh MEPs after a sweeping victory in the European elections in Wales, winning in 19 of the 22 council areas.

Plaid Cymru kept its MEP, coming second, with third-placed Labour taking the fourth seat, ahead of the Lib Dems.

Brexit Party MEP Nathan Gill said it was a “very strong message from Wales – we want our Brexit and we want it now”.

The Tories lost their seat and dropped to fifth in the vote, just ahead of the Green Party, UKIP and Change UK.???

It means Mr Gill, first elected in 2014 under the UKIP banner, retains his seat in Brussels as a Brexit Party MEP, alongside his new party colleague James Wells.

Mr Gill said only his party was “committed to respecting the vote of the people of Wales” to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Jill Evans stays as Plaid Cymru’s MEP and Jackie Jones replaces Derek Vaughan and retains Labour’s Welsh seat in the European Parliament.

It is the first time Plaid has beaten the Labour Party in a Wales-wide election, and only the second time Labour has lost such a poll in a century.

Plaid leader Adam Price said the result “shows that the tectonic plates of Welsh politics are shifting”.

“Support for the Westminster establishment parties is crumbling and Plaid Cymru is preparing to form the next government of Wales in 2021,” he added.

Ms Evans said: “Plaid’s manifesto set out a vision for a thriving future for Wales at the heart of Europe. I’m looking forward to throwing all my energy into delivering it.”

The turnout was 37.1%, up 5.6% on the previous EU election in 2014.

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Vote totals and share

  • Brexit Party – 271,404 – 32.5%
  • Plaid Cymru – 163,928 – 19.6%
  • Labour – 127,833 – 15.3%
  • Lib Dems – 113,885 – 13.6%
  • Conservatives – 54,587 – 6.5%
  • Green – 52,660 – 6.3%
  • UKIP – 27,566 – 3.3%
  • Change UK – 24,332 – 2.9%

Ex-Welsh Government minister Alun Davies blamed the huge drop Labour in Labour support on both the party’s UK leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Mark Drakeford, Labour’s leader in Wales.

“This is the reality we face. Poor leadership from London and no leadership from Wales,” he said on Twitter.

Tweeting earlier, former Welsh Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said a key message of the night was the failure of pro-EU forces to present a united front.

“Remain parties will comfortably out-poll the Brexit Party in Wales tonight, but the Brexit Party will come first in the vote tallies,” he said.

“This is why I said we should have put forward a united slate, just like the Brexit Party.”

Newly-elected Labour MEP Jackie Jones warned of a UK “Tory leader coming in, a new one who will probably be for a no-deal Brexit, much more hardline than Theresa May was”.

“So we really need to step up the game to try and deal with that scenario,” she said. “No-deal would be an absolute disaster for Wales.”

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Nathan Gill celebrates the Brexit Party’s double victory in Wales

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds seized on her party’s fourth place as evidence of its “fightback is in full effect”.

“Voters are listening to us again, supporting us again and believing in us again,” she said.

“These results show we’re on course to return a strong and effective Welsh Liberal Democrat assembly group in 2021.”

Cadan ap Tomos, chairman of the Welsh Liberal Democrats National Executive Committee, told BBC Radio Wales that he was feeling “absolutely fantastic” about the result.

Reacting to dropping from coming third in the previous European election in 2014 to fifth place, Conservative Welsh Assembly group leader Paul Davies called the results “extremely disappointing for our hard-working candidates”.

The party “must now reflect long and hard on them”, he added.

Lead Tory candidate Dan Boucher emphasised the “very challenging circumstances” of the poll, which took place because the prime minister had failed to secure the UK’s departure from the EU on 29 March, as she had promised.

“People were very frustrated that Brexit hasn’t been delivered and I’m personally frustrated that Brexit hasn’t been delivered as someone who campaigned for it,” he said.

“It’s a very strong signal to the government.”

Brexiteer David Davies, MP for Monmouth, said the results were “an unmitigated disaster for the Conservative Party”.

He added that Ministers should stop “whinging” about Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and “take some responsibility for the shambles they have helped create by failing to deliver Brexit”.

Analysis, BBC Wales political editor Felicity Evans

This is an extraordinarily bad night for Welsh Labour, a party that has topped every Wales wide poll (except one) for a century.

It may be the victim of a UK-wide issue and the ambivalence of Jeremy Corbyn’s position on another EU referendum.

But the Welsh party has defied the UK trend many times before. And for their new leader, Mark Drakeford, presiding over a result like this is damaging.

Sources say the party in Wales had no control over the conduct of the campaign or party policy on Brexit.

What we do know is that Mr Drakeford has, for months, resisted pressure from within his own Welsh party to come out more strongly for a further EU poll.

It was loyal to the UK party position, but was it the right call?

Map of Great Britain showing the leading parties for each local authority

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