BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European parliament on Tuesday began divvying-up British seats that will be left empty post-Brexit from 2019 with Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands scooping up most initially.
Out of the 73 seats now held by Britain, 27 will be allocated to existing EU states, the parliament's institutional affairs committee said, as it drew up the make-up of the legislature in the five years from 2019 when Britain quits.
The remaining 46 British seats would stay empty for now and be filled later by EU newcomers - in all likelihood from the six Western Balkan countries now knocking on the EU's door - or from "pan-European lists" in which citizens of one EU country can vote for a candidate from another member state. [nL8N1PD4SN]
Spain and France will each get five seats from the vacated British pool, while the Netherlands and Italy will each add three more, in Tuesday's decision.
Some other EU members, including Denmark, Poland, Croatia and Austria, will each get one new seat on their national lists.
Britain will leave the EU in March, 2019, and the remaining 27 countries in the bloc will vote in European Parliament elections two months later.
The 27 are now getting ready for negotiations with London on a two-year transition period after Brexit, before launching talks in spring on a new deal from 2021. [nL8N1PD4E5]
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Richard Balmforth)