Europe is not an issue in the UK elections but it should be


When British voters go to the polls on May 5 to elect their local authority representatives, it will be the first time in years that Europe is not on the ballot.

This is the first time in at least a decade that Europe – its ills and attractions; the perils of staying in or leaving – will not be a significant factor in the choices made by British voters.

As many have noted, this is ironic.

Europe should be on the ballot (at least in terms of what Boris Johnson and his governing Tories have done in relation to it).

For, Britain is now faced with the obvious economic consequences of a hard Brexit. Not only are small businesses unable to trade with Europe (and even large ones such as M&S have had to reduce their European footprint and ambitions), there are long queues of lorries at Dover.

Continental trade has become a fraught and rather distant aspiration.

That said, this local election day has a strange twinning. It is the 73rd anniversary of the creation of the Council of Europe to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe in the wake of WWII.

And May 5 is just one day before the anniversary of the 1994 opening of the Channel Tunnel, which linked the UK and France.

So, there is meaningful European resonance even on this British local elections day. It’s just largely unregarded.