BRITAIN goes to the polls on Thursday, in an election many thought would never happen.

Voters across the continent will elect 751 new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for a five year term - and those in Britain could be out of a job within weeks, in theory at least.

But what do each of the parties stand for, why do they all have so many candidates and what happens after Brexit?

READ MORE: European Election candidates 2019 - full list for the East

The system

These elections use a party list system, which means voters pick one party (in England, Wales and Scotland at least - it is slightly different in Northern Ireland).

A complicated formula - the d'Hondt system - then calculates the proportion of seats (there are 10 in the South East, for example) that each party should be allocated, for each of the UK's 12 constituencies.

So, if Party A are allocated two seats and Party B eight, the top two and eight candidates on each list are respectively elected.

This is a more proportional system, which tends to allow smaller parties a greater number of seats than the 'first past the post' system used for Westminster elections.

The parties

The Brexit Party

It's all in the name, really. Nigel Farage's new party want a 'no deal' Brexit, on World Trade Organisations terms, as soon as possible.

Basildon Standard:

  • Nigel Farage in Clacton. Picture: PA

It will be vying with UKIP for the votes of passionate leavers and is currently riding high in the poles.

The party has not released a manifesto but says it will put out a full slate of policies after the election.

Change UK - The Independent Group

The pro-remain party is also new, being made up of current MPs who have defected from both the Conservatives and Labour.

Led by interim leader and former Tory Heidi Allen, the group has already changed its name but always been clear that it wants a second referendum - and for Britain to remain in the European Union.

With remainers seemingly moving towards the Lib Dems and Greens, the polls do not make for pretty reading for the young centrist group, but it has ruled out merging with other parties.

The Conservatives

After nine years in power in Westminster and a lot of fuss about Brexit, Britain's governing party are not expected to do well on Thursday.

Though currently led by prime minister Theresa May, who advocates her deal with the European Union, a leadership election this summer will make the Tories' position on Europe far clearer. The party has not produced a manifesto or held a launch event, while Mrs May's deal is not expected to be agreed.

Tory MPs are currently hugely divided, but with the leader chosen by a Brexit-sympathising membership, the next prime minister could take a harder stance ahead of the October 31 deadline for leaving the European Union.

The Greens

Proudly pro-remain, the environmentally-conscious Greens advocate a second referendum and remaining in the EU.

Led jointly by Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley, the party is pro-freedom of movement across Europe, but says it also aims to tackle the climate crisis and inequality.

Polls predict it could be a good election for the Greens, who face competititon from the Lib Dems for remain voters.

Labour

Jeremy Corbyn's party are in a bit of a tangle over Brexit, since its voters are split between remain and leave - and boldly backing one side would alienate much of its core vote, either way.

Having been perceived to be unclear on its policies for a prolonged period, the party has not ruled out a second referendum on any deal, which it says should 'prioritise jobs and living standards'.

It calls no deal ' the 'worst possible deal' and backs an early election, to give it the chance to negotiate its own deal with Europe.

Liberal Democrats

Ardently pro-remain, the Lib Dems are enjoying something of a resurgence after voters punished it for propping up a coalition with the Conservatives for five years.

Sir Vince Cable, who is due to stand down once Brexit is finalised, is leading a party who says every vote for it is a 'vote to stop Brexit'.

In recent months, it has also become more vocal about concerns around the climate.

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Following former leader Nigel Farage's defection, many have suggested UKIP has shifted further to the right.

Though he is not a party member, far-right activist 'Tommy Robinson' (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) is advising leader Gerard Batten, who advocates a hard, 'no deal' Brexit similar to that supported by the Brexit Party.

YouTuber and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin has courted controversy after a rape joke made towards Labour MP Jess Phillips.

What happens after Brexit?

These elections would not be happening if Britain had already left the European Union.

Basildon Standard:

If and when Britain does eventually leave, the MEPs will no longer be in post, which is perhaps ironic, because it means that a large number of those who will be elected to their new jobs actually want to get rid of them.

The election results will not be announced until around 10pm on Sunday. Members take their seats on July 2.