BRUSSELS, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Citizens in the United Kingdom are among the first across Europe to go to the polls for European parliament elections, as voters across Britain cast their ballots on Thursday in a contest many expected would no longer concern them.
The Brexit process, or the Article 50 procedures that began over two years ago, should have seen Britain leave the European Union in time to sit out the elections, but an unplanned extension of the process -- until Oct. 31, 2019, at least under the current Brexit schedule -- has left Britain obliged to participate in the election cycle.
For the British, certain things will appear unchanged following this round of European elections, such as the number of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) elected. When the new European Parliament meets for its inaugural session on July 2, 2019, Britain will have its full complement of 73 MEPs, with all the voting rights they have enjoyed since joining the EU.
In June, elected British candidates will head into negotiations like their European counterparts to form European political groups, and possibly with a strong showing for the anti-EU Brexit party predicted by recent polls, they stand to have as significant an impact on the functioning of the European Parliament's this term as MEPs from the other 27 EU member states.
If Britain's divorce from the EU had gone according to schedule, Brussels had already set in place plans to reduce the number of MEPs from 751 to 705, with 27 of the seats formerly reserved for Britain to be redistributed to 14 other member states. The Republic of Ireland, for example, was due to receive two more MEPs.
With Britain still in the EU, possibly remaining in the union as late as October 31, extra MEPs are in limbo, not invited to Brussels until London leaves, and British MEPs will serve their term as normal.
British representatives would cease to be MEPs, however, as soon as the Brexit process is concluded. In such a case, countries due to receive extra MEPs would theoretically be able to call on the next candidates on their lists from this round of European elections.
The last polls before the contest put the Brexit party ahead of the pack in Britain for European elections, with a poll from YouGov published Wednesday giving the anti-EU party 37 percent of the potential votes.
If the predictions are confirmed at the ballot box, the participation of a strong number of British eurosceptics in European elections could have strong impacts on the functioning of the next European Parliament.