IT is not only the UK which will shortly be going to the polls, as this week elections will take place for the European Parliament (Thursday June 6-Sunday June 9).

This will be the first that the UK will not be participating in due to the catastrophe that is Brexit, the last we participated in being 2019.

It is a massive exercise, representing the second-largest democratic electorate in the world after India. About 373 million voters are eligible to vote, from Finland in the north to Cyprus in the south, Ireland in the west to Bulgaria in the east.

In total, 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) will be returned across the EU’s 27 member states, with voting starting on Thursday in the Netherlands, and culminating on Sunday.

The European Parliament is the only EU institution directly elected by voters, connecting European citizens to the two other big institutions – the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, and the Council, which is made up of ministers from EU governments.

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MEPs oversee the work of the Commission and Council, and together with these bodies shape and decide on new laws that influence all aspects of lives across the European Union. The Parliament also elects the President of the European Commission – currently Ursula von der Leyen – and appoints its Commissioners, holding them to account.

While it may not appear that way with Brexit, both Scotland and the UK will most definitely be impacted by them.

The EU is the UK’s largest trading market, and the actions of representatives returned to the European Parliament are set to impact us both in this respect and more widely, including on issues such as climate change and the war in Ukraine.

Although the main purpose of the June election is to decide the makeup of parliament, voters often use the occasion to send a message to their national governments, with parties on the far right predicted to make major gains.

In France, Rassemblement National or National Rally (formerly the National Front), is set to top the polls, and Vlaams Belang in Belgium and Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands are running highly successful xenophobic, anti-European campaigns.

The National:

While pro-EU party groupings in the Parliament – Greens/EFA, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Renew Europe and the European People’s Party (EPP) – are set to still dominate, as noted there are set to be big gains by the far right.

Polls suggest that the Left (GUE/NGL) political group is also anticipated to do well at the expense of more moderate blocs such as the S&D and Renew Europe.

Two groups on the right – the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and Identity and Democracy (ID) – could overtake the centre-left and become the second-largest force in Parliament.

Until now, the centre-right has tended to work together with the centre-left but the EPP may come under pressure to seek new allies if the centre-left performs badly.

This polarising trend means that the centre-ground is expected to lose out and could put the brakes on plans for new climate and sustainability laws and influence social or economic legislation. The EU’s strong backing for financial and military aid for Ukraine could  also be affected.

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With the return of what is likely to be a Labour government in the UK, which has put economic growth rather than public spending at the heart of its plan, it is hard to see a pathway to growth without better access to the UK’s biggest trading partner, the EU.

The revision of the Trade and ­ Co-operation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and EU will take place in 2025 or 2026, and Keir Starmer has signalled his intention to seek a closer trading relationship, having previously described the current TCA arrangement as “too thin”.

A shift to the right in the European Parliament, and European politics more broadly, could however generate a more hardline approach with a Labour-led government.

This may prove to be a sticking point for deeper cooperation in not just trade, but in other areas such as climate change, artificial intelligence (AI), immigration and the war in Ukraine.

Whatever the outcome of these elections, we should not disregard the impact they will have on relations between the UK and the EU.

Alex Orr is a board member of the European Movement in Scotland – writing in a personal capacity