IT IS undoubtedly one of the most hotly-debated political issues – and next Thursday residents will get the chance to have their say in the debate on Europe by voting for who they want to represent them in the European Parliament.

On May 22, voters across the borough will go to the polls on the same day as elections are held to elect 22 councillors to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

The European Parliament consists of 754 members from the European Union’s 28 countries and the UK has the second highest number of MEPs – 73 – after Germany, which has 99 elected members.

As a result of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999, the South East constituency was formed to replace a number of single-member constituencies, replacing the Hampshire North and Oxford ward that served Basingstoke previously.

Basingstoke falls within the South East constituency – the largest constituency in the UK – and voters will elect 10 candidates to represent them in the European Parliament.

Members are elected to the European Parliament through the proportional representation system, unlike the first past-the-post system in the General Election or local elections.

As a result, seats in Parliament will be won by the proportion of votes the party gets. 

At the last election in 2009 – European elections take place every five years – voters chose to elect four Conservative, two UKIP, two Liberal Democrat, one Green Party and one Labour members for the constituency.

Guide to the South East constituency

The European Parliament, which is based in Strasbourg, France, is the only directly-elected European Union body and like Parliament in the United Kingdom, it represents citizens of European Union countries.

The UK is split into 12 constituencies – Eastern, East Midlands, London, North East, Northern Ireland, North West, Scotland, South East, South West, Wales, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber.

Basingstoke falls under the South East constituency and has 10 elected members that represent the area, which spreads across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex.