It was the election that was never meant to happen – but with the UK still a member of the EU on 23 May, voters spent Thursday at polling stations, casting their votes in the European Parliamentary elections.

Other member states carried out the same task over the weekend, meaning we won’t be seeing results until Sunday night.

But what is the lie of the land across the UK’s 12 regions as 73 people prepare to become a generation of unexpected MEPs?

How did things stand before the vote?

There was no doubt that Brexit was the key issue for voters and politicians alike during the run up to the European elections.

The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March, but after Parliament failed to come to an agreement on how to exit the bloc, a new deadline of 31 October was agreed.

It meant the UK would hold elections to the European Parliament, and new parties popping up to campaign for Leave and Remain – as well as established parties promoting their stance.

Nigel Farage launched the Brexit Party, demanding an immediate exit from the EU, while Change UK called for a further referendum or “People’s Vote”.

Buoyed by local election results, the Lib Dems and the Greens were hopeful their “stop Brexit” positions would gain traction too.

And UKIP remained on the ballot paper to fight for its existing MEP seats, with independents snapping at their heels.

The two main parties, however – Labour and Conservative – seemed to be preparing for the worst, possibly facing a backlash over their handling of Brexit.

How the UK is divided into regions

England is split into nine regions, with each returning a number of MEPs based on their population.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the final three regions, again returning a number of MEPs determined by their size.

So, what do some of the BBC’s political correspondents predict for their nations and regions?

East Midlands region: Rees-Mogg vs UKIP

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East Midlands regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 2 seats
  • Conservatives – 2 seats
  • Labour – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC East Midlands political editor Tony Roe

A well-known surname has entered the East Midlands fray in the shape of Annunziata Rees-Mogg – Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister. She is running for the Brexit Party, claiming politics is broken as a result of MPs’ poor handling of the situation.

She has been out campaigning a lot, but admits she doesn’t want to be a politician and would rather stay at home with her young children and new puppy that she picked up a week before the EU poll.

The region will be a test for the Brexit Party, even with a big name.

The 2014 election was a high point for its leader’s former party UKIP and, despite seeing many of its councillors wiped out in the last local elections, UKIP still has a stronghold in the city of Derby, where they increased the number of councillors from three to five in the vote.

Other, more local, names may be a draw for Remain voters – as Change UK MPs Chris Leslie and Anna Soubry are both Nottinghamshire MPs – but there will clearly be tactical voting going on that side of the Brexit argument.

Tory seats are thought to be under threat as party members in parts of the region, such as Derbyshire, have publically refused to campaign, with others thought to have privately followed suit.

And for Labour, as much as they would like to deny it, in some parts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire the Corbyn brand is toxic and people have drifted from the party in what used to be key marginals in post-industrial seats since 2015.

Something to keep an eye on though is the Independent Network – a Lincolnshire-based group grounded in local government where they advise local independents all over the country.

Eastern region: The home of Euroscepticism


Eastern regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 3 seats
  • Conservatives – 3 seats
  • Labour – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC East political correspondent Andrew Sinclair

The east of England has always been seen as the home of Euroscepticism.

It was in Essex where UKIP recorded some of its first successes: its first MP, Douglas Carswell, won his seat in Clacton, and it was in Clacton where Nigel Farage held his first Brexit Party rally.

Immigration has always been a big issue here too. The food and farming industry has brought many EU migrants to the region who, while essential to the local economy, have put pressure on services -particularly in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

The region’s fishing industry was badly affected by the decision to join the European Economic Community (EEC).

Promises of a brighter future after Brexit were another reason why parts of the region recorded some of the highest leave votes in the country at the EU referendum, such as Castle Point with 72.7%, Thurrock with 72.3% and Great Yarmouth with 71.5%.

At the last European elections UKIP came first with its highest share in the country, trailed in second by the Conservatives.

On Sunday night, we will see if the East is still as Eurosceptic as it has ever been.

London region: Labour voters to dally elsewhere


London regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • Labour – 4 seats
  • Conservatives – 2 seats
  • UKIP – 1 seat
  • Greens – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC London political editor Tim Donovan

London is the only region in England which voted to stay in the EU, with six out of 10 of its voters opting to Remain.

Ahead of the European poll in the capital, there appeared to be strong support for putting the decision to Leave to another referendum, or to forget the thing ever happened and put an end to the process by revoking Article 50.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, instinctively supports the latter position, and sees the former as the very minimum.

Some are expecting the new grouping of Change UK to gain traction in London, with three MPs signed up – including the key figure Chuka Umunna.

But its salience could be limited by the Europhile character of Labour’s MPs, MEPs and members of the grassroots campaign group Momentum, which also backs another referendum.

More to the point, normally staunch Labour supporters could be prepared to dally elsewhere, but be more likely to look to the Lib Dems and Greens.

With perceived ambiguity in Labour’s position, polling suggests a good chunk of its supporters could be contemplating a vote for these parties who appear to offer a clearer, pure alternative.

But if choices are plentiful for Remainers, indicating their vote could be awkwardly split, no such difficulty appears to be troubling Leavers.

A decent portion of the capital’s 40% Leave cohort look like they could support the Brexit party, pushing the Conservatives near the bottom of the pile and wiping all but the smallest trace of UKIP – who’ve had two London assembly members these last four years, as well an MEP – from the capital.

North East region: Votes to harvest


North East regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • Labour – 2 seats
  • UKIP – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC North East and Cumbria political editor Richard Moss

The North East has the smallest population of any of the regions in these elections. And so with only three seats, the competition has been fierce.

It’s always been a region Labour could rely on, coming out on top each time since the current system was adopted in 1999. And in 2014, the party secured two of the three seats.

Five years ago, it was UKIP providing the main challenge and scooping up the third seat. But this time the Brexit Party is hoping it can come out on top.

There are certainly lots of Leave votes to harvest, but it is a region with strong trading links to the EU – especially via exports from the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. Teesside also has a big industrial base, with particular strengths in steel and chemicals.

And beyond the industrial sector, agriculture plays a part, particularly in largely rural Northumberland.

Any future trading links could be vital then, and the Liberal Democrats have been pushing hard to try and harvest Remain votes. They last won a seat in the region in 2009, but are hoping they can also eat into Labour’s support.

There are still communities though struggling to recover from the industrial decline of the 1980s. That’s always helped breed Labour loyalty in the past, but recent local election results suggest it could be a tougher test, and Nigel Farage’s new party may be best placed to take advantage.

North West region: Questioning roots


North West regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • Labour – 3 seats
  • UKIP – 3 seats
  • Conservatives – 2 seats

Analysis by BBC North West political editor Nina Warhurst

The North West has mixed feelings on Europe.

The city boroughs of Liverpool and Manchester voted heavily Remain. The University populace, the global football clubs, the booming ports and airports and growing tech investment create a population that works and plays with European neighbours, and sees them as friends.

But away from the big cities, into Cheshire and Lancashire, there is more scepticism. All of their boroughs voted Leave, and Blackpool – where 67.5% wanted out – is often referred to as a totem of Brexit Britain.

Where there’s town poverty, they want change. Where there’s rural wealth, they want freedom.

Traditionally, there is fierce Labour loyalty here. More than two-thirds of North West MPs are Labour and in some constituencies, more than 80% supported the party in 2017.

But the 2016 referendum has challenged loyalties. Some Labour supporters feel frustrated with the party’s please-all position on Brexit and are looking elsewhere.

Meanwhile it’s been hard to trace a local Tory campaign in the region. Many are embarrassed by what’s happening at the top.

Earlier this month, 54 independent councillors were elected in the North West, telling us something about how much people here are questioning their roots.

Northern Ireland: The contest for the third seat


Northern IrelandSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • Sinn Fein – 1 seat
  • DUP – 1 seat
  • UUP – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport

Throughout the past 40 years, Northern Ireland has always been represented by two unionist MEPs and one Irish nationalist – a reflection of the majority support for staying within the UK.

But in 2016, 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU, and the fractious debate since then has shaken some long held assumptions.

Most commentators believe Northern Ireland’s two biggest parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, will each secure a seat.

But the retirement of a veteran Ulster Unionist MEP has cast doubt over the fate of the third seat.

The Ulster Unionists, the Brexiteer Traditional Unionists, the pro-Remain nationalist SDLP and middle of the road pro-EU Alliance party all harbour hopes in what could turn out to be a tight race.

UKIP, the Greens, the Conservatives and two independents are also in the running, but with neither the Brexit party nor Change UK registered, this will be a contest between the established political parties.

Scotland: The fundamental fault line of independence

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ScotlandSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • SNP – 2 seats
  • Labour – 2 seats
  • Conservatives – 1 seat
  • UKIP – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor

Scotland is different. At the simplest level, the full Scottish result will not be known until Monday because they don’t count votes on the Sabbath in the Western Isles.

But there is a more fundamental difference too. A core division beyond the Leave/Remain dichotomy which may influence electoral behaviour elsewhere: the fundamental fault line of independence.

Supporters of independence argue that Brexit means Scotland is being taken out of the EU against their will – as a sizeable majority of voters north of the Border opted for Remain – and Nationalists say those same voters were told in the 2014 independence referendum that the way to ensure Scotland remained in the EU was to endorse that other Union, the United Kingdom.

The SNP says that an independent Scotland would acquire EU membership, but Unionists claim it might not be that straightforward, such as the possible requirement of adopting the single currency.

Supporters of the Union – whatever their views on Europe – also say that the last thing Scotland needs is further constitutional dispute after the chaos of Brexit.

The European contest is a ghost election; spectral politics where the substance lies not with the present choice of party or candidate, but with a possible indicative verdict upon Brexit and, in Scotland, with a comparable signal towards the issue of independence.

This time, the SNP hopes to top the poll again – and would argue that if they do, the people of Scotland are seeking a solution beyond Brexit to the constitutional conundrum which confronts them and the UK more generally.

UKIP’s Scottish MEP, David Coburn, has switched to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and although Mr Coburn is not contesting a seat in Scotland, it will be something to look out for as to whether his new outfit gains Scots who are staunch Leavers.

Look out too for whether the Liberal Democrats can achieve their aim of corralling a sizeable chunk of the non-Nationalist Remain vote in Scotland. They hope their stance – pro EU, pro UK – can catch a certain mood. We shall see.

South East region: Size means surprise


South East regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 4 seats
  • Conservatives – 3 seats
  • Labour – 1 seat
  • Lib Dems – 1 seat
  • Greens – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC South East Today political editor Helen Catt

The South East is a vast region stretching from the Kent coast right through to the edge of the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire.

Traditionally it’s strong Conservative territory – although UKIP swept the board in 2014.

In the referendum, immigration and freedom of movement were significant issues.

The region is largely rural, attracting seasonal migrant workers, but also takes in some of the London commuter belt, university cities like Oxford and major centres of technological innovation for industries like space and defence.

Trade is a particular concern too, as a large proportion of goods imported into the UK come through Dover and Southampton.

With 10 seats available at European elections, the region does have a track record of electing MEPs from smaller parties too.

Nigel Farage, who was first elected for UKIP in 1999, is one of the region’s longest-serving MEPs and his presence continues to dominate the European election contest.

Former Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas gained significant support as a South East MEP before moving on to Westminster.

But the Liberal Democrats also have strongholds here – in 2014, Catherine Bearder in the South East was the sole MEP the party managed to retain.

With such a large region and the largest number of seats to fill, the South East could well throw up some surprises on Sunday.

South West region: Concentration of celebrity candidates


South West regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 2 seats
  • Conservatives – 2 seats
  • Labour – 1 seat
  • Greens – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC South West political editor Martyn Oates

Six MEPs represent the enormous South West region, stretching from Gloucestershire in the east all the way to the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, in the far west.

And since 2004, it has also included the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.

The last European Elections in 2014 saw UKIP and the Conservatives win two seats each, with Labour and the Green Party each taking one, but both the UKIP MEPs subsequently left the party and one of the Conservatives ended up sitting as an Independent.

This election has seen a concentration of “celebrity” candidates in the region, including former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe (for the Brexit Party) and Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel (for Change UK).

At a parliamentary level, the region is dominated by the Conservatives – with a sparse scattering of Labour MPs, one Independent (elected as a Conservative) and one Liberal Democrat.

But the Lib Dems – who until recently had a large number of MPs across the region – made a significant comeback in this month’s local elections in South West counties like Devon and Somerset.

Certain sectors of the South West economy – like fishing and farming – are particularly entwined with the European Union, and Cornwall continues to receive the highest level of economic regeneration funding from the EU.

It will be interesting to see come Sunday what impact, if any, these links have.

Wales: Finding fertile ground

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WalesSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • Labour – 1 seat
  • UKIP – 1 seat
  • Conservatives – 1 seat
  • Plaid Cymru – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC Wales political correspondent Arwyn Jones

Wales has received more EU funding than other parts of the UK.

Grants designed to help the poorest regions of Europe were used to try to give parts of the south Wales valleys an economic boost.

And academics have calculated that Wales – unlike the UK as a whole – receives £245m more from the European Union than it pays in every year.

So the country’s vote to Leave in 2016 took many by surprise.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, the signs were there.

UKIP were within a whisker of gaining the most votes at the last European election in 2014. They also won seven seats in the Welsh Assembly in May 2016.

So it might be of little surprise that the Brexit Party say they are finding fertile ground in parts of Wales.

Labour has come first in all but one of the 39 Wales-wide elections since 1918. The only exception was narrowly losing to the Conservatives in 2009 European election.

When the results are announced Sunday evening, will that dominance still hold?

West Midlands region: Success stories to come?


West Midlands regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 3 seats
  • Labour – 2 seats
  • Conservatives – 2 seats

Analysis by BBC West Midlands political editor Patrick Burns

In the 2016 referendum, the West Midlands registered some of the UK’s highest proportions of Leave votes. Nearly three-quarters wanted out in parts of Stoke-on-Trent and the Black Country, and generally across the region, Leave triumphed by a ratio of 6:4.

In the process, it sent shockwaves through the political “establishment”. But if they had been paying attention, it should not have come as too much of a surprise.

The region’s contingent of MEPs after the previous European elections, two years before, gave an ample indication of what was to come.

The region was awarded a seventh seat that went to the Conservatives on the basis of the 2014 election results. But also, since then, two of those three UKIP MEPs have resigned from the party and the third is standing down.

UKIP’s showing in this month’s council elections has merely added to the impression that they are now engaged in a fight to the death with the Brexit Party, and Nigel Farage told us recently he expected the West Midlands to be one of the Brexit Party’s biggest success stories this time.

Remember, though, that the West Midlands also has some significant concentrations of Remain support, especially in places like Warwick and Leamington, as well as the more affluent areas of Birmingham, which are home to large academic communities.

Labour’s capture of Warwick and Leamington from the Conservatives in the 2017 general election has been widely interpreted as a verdict on Brexit.

This time though, Labour are accused of “fence-sitting” on Europe, so it is the Liberal Democrats who are campaigning to benefit from the Remain sentiment with their “exit from Brexit” strategy.

Their problem is that the new Change UK party and the Greens have near-identical policies on the EU, so the Remain vote could be split three ways.

Local Conservatives have struggled to make an impact, overshadowed as they are by the ructions within the part at Westminster and many activists here are seething at the government’s failure to deliver Brexit.

The Tory council leader in Walsall, Mike Bird, said his activists would be taking no part in this election. Having supported the Leave campaign, “it would not make sense”, he told us, “for them to campaign for a party whose leadership want something else”.

It may even be touch and go whether or not the Conservatives emerge from these elections with any West Midlands MEPs at all.

Yorkshire and the Humber region: Heads may turn for new brands


Yorkshire and the Humber regionSource: ONS

Results in 2014:

  • UKIP – 3 seats
  • Labour – 2 seats
  • Conservatives – 1 seat

Analysis by BBC Look North political editor James Vincent

With some of the strongest Leave voting areas in the country, Labour and the Conservatives will have a tough time attracting either side of the debate to vote for them here.

UKIP might have got the most MEPs last time, but with the emergence of the Brexit Party, the big question for them is whether voters will have any brand loyalty to Nigel Farage’s old party – or whether their heads will be turned by his new venture.

The Lib Dems made gains in the local elections, but with a similar EU message to the Greens and Change UK, Remain voters may split between them.

Places like Doncaster and Barnsley where the Leave vote was strongest in Yorkshire (both with a 68% Leave vote) will be really interesting as they are both strong Labour towns that have been watching the party’s Brexit policy closely.

Those places contributed to UKIP getting half the MEPs five years ago – but there is of course a new Brexit Party in town.

York was the strongest Remain area, with 58% voting to stay, and in the recent local elections the Lib Dems and Greens took over the council. Those parties will be hoping to see their Remain message get through here and along the A59 in Harrogate.

But, of course, these elections were pretty unexpected – so much so that the Labour MEP Linda McAvan had already got another job and isn’t standing this time around.

Correction 11 June 2019: This article has been amended to remove an incorrect statistic for the 2016 Leave referendum results in the South East.