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Euro poll will be treated like new Brexit referendum, says report

The EU and Union flags flying outside Parliament in Westminster, London. Theresa May will intensify efforts to win over her Brexit critics and seek fresh guarantees from Brussels ahead of next week's crunch vote on her deal. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday January 7, 2019. The Prime Minister acknowledged she was "still working on" getting further assurances from the European Union to address concerns about the backstop measure aimed at preventing a hard border with Ireland. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The upcoming European Parliament elections will be treated like a new Brexit referendum by many, a new report has said.

A study by the think tank The UK in a Changing Europe said the results could have a significant impact on the outcome of a Brexit deal with the EU.

The elections scheduled for May 23 are set to go ahead following Prime Minister Theresa May's failure to get Parliament to pass her Withdrawal Agreement after seeking a Brexit extension to the end of October from Brussels.

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: "There is an irony that the upcoming European elections will be the most scrutinised, watched and dissected.

"And yet it remains far from certain whether - and if so for how long - any of the British MEPS will take up their seats."

The report states: "Like it or not, convincingly or not, many people will portray the election as a proxy Brexit referendum.

"As for the EU itself, the elections will, obviously, have a bearing on the composition of the European Parliament.

"They will determine the balance of power - between pro-European and nationalist-populist forces, and between left and right - and influence important decisions taken about key appointments to top EU jobs and the future agenda for Europe.

"All things being equal, British MEPs will play a part in those debates, even if their tenures do not last much longer than it takes for these initial decisions to be made.

"We face the prospect of British MEPs tilting the balance of power in a certain direction for long enough to shape key decisions, while giving up their seats before the consequences of those decisions become clear."

The reports said the results could have a bearing on Brexit talks with the EU.

The study said: "Should, for instance, the Brexit Party gain a large number of seats this may change the incentives of European leaders when deciding about whether to prolong British membership.

"A more fragmented and polarised parliament might slow down the process of agreeing any future trade deal."