The UK’s two main parties – the Conservatives and the Labour Party – have had a disappointing night so far in the European elections.
The Brexit Party and the pro-EU Lib Dems have both seen surges as voters split on the issue of leaving the EU.
Five out of 12 regions have declared so far, including Remain-backing London, where the Tories came fifth and the Lib Dems won.
In the Leave-voting North East, The Brexit Party won 39% of the vote.
That is 10 points up on what UKIP achieved in 2017. The region also saw a 13.5% swing from Labour to Lib Dem. The Conservative vote was down 11 points.
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The second region to declare was the East of England, which has elected three MEPs from The Brexit Party, two Lib Dem MEPs, one Green Party MEP and one Conservative MEP.
Wales has elected two MEPs from The Brexit Party, one from Plaid Cymru and one from Labour.
In the West Midlands, The Brexit Party won 37% of the vote, while the Lib Dems narrowly failed to overtake Labour despite a 10% swing.
All 28 EU member states are electing MEPs, and countries have been voting since Thursday.
The UK is electing 73 MEPs for its 12 regions under a system of proportional representation.
Conservative MP Helen Whately told the BBC: “We knew these were going to be bad elections.
“We wanted to have left Europe by now. It is frustrating for us and for people who usually vote Conservative.”
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the BBC: “We are going to get a kicking.
“The point is we went into an election where the most important issue was our view on leaving the EU. And we were not clear on the one thing people wanted to hear.”
Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor to Tony Blair and prominent member of the People’s Vote campaign for another referendum, said for the first time in his life he had voted for the Lib Dems.
Race for second
In early results, The Brexit Party is running at an average of 44% of the vote in those council areas where more than 55% voted to Leave in 2016.
In areas where less than 45% voted Leave, the Lib Dems are averaging 50% of the vote.
The Green Party – also staunchly Remain – appears to be heading for better than the 8% share it won in 2014.
The newly-formed, Remain-supporting Change UK, though, has so far registered just 3% of the vote, suggesting that the forecast of the polls that they would perform poorly has been correct.
Prof Curtice said: “It is not unlikely that the initial interest in tonight’s results, apart from how well the Brexit Party does, is the status of the race for second place – some polling has suggested it is close between Labour and the Lib Dems.”
He said that for the Lib Dems to overtake Labour they need just over a 9% swing across Britain as a whole.
“So whether or not they meet this target in the early results could well prove to be a crucial indicator to the overall picture tonight,” he said.
BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said the results for Labour in Scotland and Wales were looking “very bad”.
In Wales, he said Plaid Cymru sources believe they have come second.
Figures so far suggest that the turnout in some areas has risen sharply, while others have seen a fall compared to the last election in 2014.
Wales saw the highest increase in turnout, with a five percentage point increase to 37.3%. The South East, South West and North East also saw a boost in the number of people casting their vote.
But in Northern Ireland turnout fell nearly six percentage points to 45.1%, while smaller drops were also recorded in the West Midlands, North West and Eastern regions.
The total turnout in 2014, in terms of valid votes cast, was 35.4%.
Both of our big main parties expect to be punished very severely for the meltdown in Westminster over Brexit.
The flip-side for the smaller parties? The Lib Dems are feeling buoyant and of course, Nigel Farage is back with a vengeance.
It is possible if the Brexit Party are top that they will have a very profound impact on what comes next in the UK’s attempts to leave the EU.
European elections 2019: Tories and Labour suffer}