The European Parliament

Since 1979, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been directly elected for fixed terms of five years. The total membership is 751, of whom 73 represent UK constituencies (60 in England, 6 in Scotland, 4 in Wales and 3 in Northern Ireland). Following the 2014 elections, the largest party in the parliament was the European People’s Party with 221 seats, closely followed by the Socialists and Democrats with 191. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe includes the sole British Liberal Democrat MEP. The UK Independence Party, UKIP, has 24 MEPs and is affiliated to the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, which has 48 seats in the parliament. Labour’s 20 MEPs sit with the Socialists and Democrats Group, and the Conservative party’s 19 MEPs are part of the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group. Other United Kingdom MEPs are Green (3), SNP (2), Liberal Democrat (1) Plaid Cymru (1), Sinn F6in (1), Democratic Unionist (1), and Ulster Unionist (1).

Most business in European Parliament plenary sessions originates from the 20 permanent committees and their sub-committees, which carry out most of the legislative scrutiny. Somewhat surprisingly, the European Parliament continues to sit both in Strasbourg, for a week of plenary sittings each month, and in Brussels, for a number of two-day plenaries and the majority of committee meetings.

The European Parliament employs some 6,000 people. The budget for 2014 was ?1.4 billion, including MEP’s salaries. Exact comparisons are difficult but, in broad cash terms, the European Parliament costs well over twice as much as the Westminster Parliament.

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