Eurosceptics make major gains in EU polls
EUROSCEPTIC nationalists scored stunning victories in European Parliament elections in France and Britain on Sunday as critics of the European Union (EU) more than doubled their seats in a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and unemployment.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the breakthrough by Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front in one of the EU's founding nations a political "earthquake".
In a vote that raised more doubts about Britain's long-term future in the EU, Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party (UKIP), which advocates immediate withdrawal, led the opposition Labour party and Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives comfortably, with almost half the results declared.
But in Germany, the EU's biggest member state with the largest number of seats, and Italy the pro-European centre ground held firm.
First official results from around the 28-nation bloc showed the pro-European centre-left and centre-right parties would keep control of around 70 per cent of the 751-seat EU legislature, but the number of Eurosceptic members would more than double.
The political fallout may be felt more strongly in national politics than at the EU level, pulling mainstream conservative parties further to the right and raising pressure to crack down on immigration.
In Britain, where voting took place on Thursday, UKIP won 27.5 per cent of the vote, with the Labour opposition on 25.4 per cent and the Conservatives on 24 per cent, although results from Scotland were still to be factored in.
That will pile pressure on Mr Cameron, who has promised Britons an in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017 if he is re-elected next year, to take an even tougher line in Europe.