How the United Kingdom Independence Party’s One Seat Has the Power to Change British and European Politics
Policy Challenge: It is misleading to evaluate the impact of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) solely on its one seat won during the May 7, 2015 U.K. election. It earned its 12.6 percent share of total votes thanks to an appealing message, its organizational effectiveness, and the disenchantment of voters with mainstream parties. UKIP’s success further perpetuates the fragmentation of British party politics, will keep the immigration issue on the agenda for years, and puts European policymakers in a strategic dilemma.
Policy Recommendations: UKIP’s anti-EU rhetoric thrives in spite of the Tories promise to hold an in-and-out referendum (“Brexit”) after negotiations with European partners. A symbolic Tory victory would increase UKIP’s leverage over anti-EU forces in Britain, but hamper much-needed European integration in the short term. Accommodating too few of the Tories’ demands could lead to a Brexit vote in 2017, or to the forging of a British government in 2020 that wants to quit the EU for good. European partners negotiating with David Cameron must carefully weigh short-term versus long-term implications.