England's Labour Party, led by Gordon Brown, is expected to lose seats in the E.U. Parliamentary elections on June 4th. Labour has fallen behind rival parties while financial woes and scepticism of the E.U. have left some voters yearning for the good old days.
More than the English Channel seems to separate the U.K. from the E.U. as Britons go, or do not go, to the polls to fill the U.K.'s 72 seats. For a once-hegemon, England's historical superiority in the region is discounted by the E.U.'s scheme of representative democracy. Seventy-two seats gives the U.K. only a 10-percent say in the Parliament's 785-member legislature.
Fears of losing national sovereignty to the mainland are particularly strong in the U.K., which continues to use the pound instead of the euro, the definitive symbol of the united European economy. While the U.K. is subject to regulations requiring an open E.U. labor market, traditional skepticism of the E.U. as well as the pound's consistent superiority over the euro are two reasons Queen Elizabeth continues to appear on British notes.
While the executive branch of the E.U., the E.U. Commission, has promised not to give into reactionary desires for protectionism, it is the legislative branch, the E.U. Parliament, that is up for grabs this week. Europe's 27 countries incumbent parties are predicted to lose seats and the U.K. is no exception. Labour is third in polls and the far-right British National Party is gaining ground by running a xenophobic campaign against "immigrant spongues".
The British economy's imbroglio with the financial sector has caused the pound to fall steeply against the euro in the past year. While the pound is still a more valuable currency, the British proclivity to spend big in continental Europe, whether on weekend bachelor parties or second homes abroad, is facing hard times.
The running joke in Spain that Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean, is really British property may lose its punch if English politics continues to tighten its belt by electing nationalists and E.U. skeptics to the E.U. Parliament this June 4th. For better or worse, it would not be uncharacteristic given the suspicion the U.K. has traditionally had of the continent.