• MEP numbers to be cut from 751 to 705 after Brexit
  • 46 of the 73 UK seats freed up by Brexit to be held in reserve for possible pan-European lists and EU enlargement
  • Remaining 27 UK seats to be shared out among 14 under-represented EU countries

The European Parliament should shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs when the UK leaves the EU, to make room for EU-wide electoral lists, say Constitutional Affairs MEPs.

Besides reducing Parliament’s size from 751 to 705 elected representatives, a proposed re-distribution of seats, approved by the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday, would also place 46 of the 73 UK seats to be freed up by Brexit in a reserve.

Some or all of the 46 seats in the reserve could then be reallocated to new countries joining the EU and/or pan-European electoral lists. The other 27 former UK seats would be distributed among the 14 EU countries that are currently slightly under-represented.

Pan-European electoral lists

The committee agreed that the number of MEPs elected from an EU-wide electoral constituency in the future should match the number of EU countries, as soon as the completion of the ongoing EU electoral law reform allows it.

Introducing such a transnational constituency would strengthen the sense of EU citizenship and the European character of elections to Parliament, say MEPs.

However, completing the electoral law would require a unanimous decision by ministers in the Council of the EU and ratification by all member states.

New allocation of seats among 27 member states

The remaining 27 British seats ought to be re-distributed among the 14 EU countries that are slightly under-represented, to even out current inequalities in their representation in the House, says the committee.

Proposed allocation of seats (table)

MEPs also stress that this allocation would apply only if the UK actually leaves the EU. Otherwise the current arrangements would stay.

The proposal for a European Council decision was approved on Tuesday by 21 votes to 4 with 0 abstentions.

Brexit and Northern Ireland

Even though Brexit is to take Northern Ireland out of the EU, MEPs stress that Northern Irish citizens, under the Good Friday Agreement, also have an inherent right to Irish and therefore EU citizenship.


Co-rapporteur Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) said “One of the main challenges of this report was on how to deal with the legacy of Brexit. We felt the need to respond to the fact that a big Member State is leaving, so we understood the importance of a smaller EP, which is able to continue working for the good of the EU’s citizens. We hope that the new composition of the Parliament will reinvigorate citizen’s participation in the European democratic process”.

Co-rapporteur Pedro Silva Pereira (S&D, PT) said “This is a very important day for the European democracy. This proposal is a good one: it assures a fair representation of citizens, it proposes a reasonable and viable political solution".

Next steps

Once this legislative initiative has been approved by the full House, it will be put to the European Council (EU Heads of state or governments) for a unanimous decision, and then returned to Parliament for a final yes/no vote. The plenary vote is scheduled for the February session in Strasbourg.

Quick facts

According to Article 14(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the number of Members of the European Parliament cannot exceed 750, plus the President. It also provides for representation to be “degressively proportional”, with a minimum threshold of 6 members per member state, and that no member state is to be allocated more than 96 seats.

In simplified terms, “degressive proportionality” should meet two requirements:

  1. no smaller state shall receive more seats than a larger state,
  2. the population/seats ratio shall increase as population increases, before rounding to whole numbers.