Can you remember the last time the country was gripped by the European elections? Us neither.
But with the UK supposed to have been well out of the EU by the time the ballots opened on May 23, the elections have become a focus point for the frustrations of voters on both sides of the Leave/ Remain divide over Brexit.
The election results are set to offer a stark insight into the effect the seemingly endless Brexit delays have had on voters – and MEPs will be at the centre of the story.
So, they’re about to become an emblem of the UK’s changing political scene – but what exactly is it that MEPs actually do?
The UK is served by 73 MEPs, each of whom is elected to represent one of the country’s 12 constituencies.
Based in Brussels, these members of European parliament spend a lot of their time representing the interests of their constituents back in Britain and dealing with casework.
However, above all else, it is their job to pass legislation in the EU, covering issues such as climate change, human rights, migration and finance.
In recent years, MEPs have passed laws determining:
- The use of pesticides
- Health and safe working hours
- The safety of thousands of chemicals used in everyday products
Once a month, MEPs from across the 28 EU nations meet in Strasbourg for a meeting of the whole parliament, which is called a plenary session.
But before that, MEPs must meet in specialised committees to prepare legislative subjects for discussion in those plenary sessions. Each committee is made up of between 25 and 73 MEPs and mirrors the political make-up of the full parliament.
As part of the European parliament, MEPs are also responsible for holding the European Commission – the body responsible for managing the day-to-day business of the EU – to account, and can force it to resign.
All MEPs are paid the same – though they pay differing amounts of tax depending on which EU country they call home. After EU tax and insurance contributions, MEPs take home £5,919.37 a month.
In the UK, voting in the European elections will open on May 23. The results will be announced on May 26.