It would be a mistake to dismiss the European elections as a mere sideshow in the fight among Britain’s parties, either because the U.K. will withdraw its M.E.P.s should Brexit go through, or because the Parliament is viewed, by many, as mostly just the showy part of a make-work E.U. bureaucracy. The U.K. is not out of the Union yet, and it will be sending seventy-one M.E.P.s to the Parliament, nearly a tenth of the total. The European Parliament does have real functions and effects—for example, it has a role in choosing members of the European Commission, which does much of the E.U.’s work, and in approving legislation. And it is an incubator of political parties and of transnational party alliances, for example among Europe’s various populists. In this sense, the European elections may become not just a barometer of discontent but a part of the process of the breaking of ties between voters and traditional parties. (This is particularly, but not exclusively, true for the Conservative Party.) Having cast one ballot for the Brexit Party in the European elections, a voter might be more willing to cast another for it in the general election—or to opt for another alternative yet to emerge. Farage is not wrong about this being a moment of high risk for British politics.
“You’re in denial,” Farage told Marr. “The BBC is in denial, the Tory and Labour parties are in denial, I think you’re all in for a bigger surprise Thursday week than you can even imagine.” And what does Farage imagine will happen after that?