The EU elections WILL go ahead on May 23, the government confirmed today in a humiliating admission of defeat.
Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington finally confirmed the £100million poll is now unavoidable after Brexit was delayed to October 31.
The announcement confirms what was already an open secret in Westminster. And it means Britain will definitely elect 70 MEPs to the European Parliament.
It comes despite Theresa May repeatedly promising she would try to avoid the poll, two months after the UK was meant to leave.
In March she declared: “As Prime Minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th June”.
Yet Mr Lidington admitted: “Given how little time there is, it’s regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that’s legally due for the EU Parliamentary elections.”
He added: “Legally, they do have to take place… so those will now go ahead.”
The deadline to register to vote in the elections is tonight.
The European Parliament elections will see Britain elect 70 MEPs to Brussels on Strasbourg on salaries of 105,092 Euros per year.
The last elections in 2014 cost UK taxpayers almost £109million to run.
Yet with compromise talks between Tories and Labour continuing today, Downing Street is still holding out hope that Britain can secure a Brexit deal before the end of June.
That would mean MEPs won’t have to take their seats when the Parliament begins its first sitting on July 2.
But it will likely lead to the elections being blasted as a waste of public money and ramp up calls for May to quit.
The poll will be a major test for the two main parties after both lost ground in the local elections – with the Tories losing around 1,300 seats.
One Tory MEP – David Campbell Bannerman – predicted the Tories will “get a kicking” and be down to 10 MEPs.
The new Brexit Party, whose candidates include Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata and former Tory grandee Ann Widdecombe, could scoop up a wide base of Leaver support.
It’s been polled on as high as 28% by YouGov in one survey – ahead of Labour on 22% and the Tories on 13%.
Mr Lidington made the announcement today, saying: “Parliament has had several occasions to vote on leaving the European Union.
“So far, every time there has been a majority against leaving with any particularly orderly deal, so we are engaged as a Government in talks with the opposition, and with others across Parliament, to try and find a way forward that has maximum possible support amongst politicians of all political parties.
“But what this now means, given how little time there is, is that it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for European Parliamentary elections.
“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place. But legally, they do have to take place – unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect – so those will now go ahead.
“But we will be redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs of all parties to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible. Ideally we’d like to be in a situation where those MEPs never actually have to take their seat at European Parliament, certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess.
“That will mean effort, hard work and compromise from different political parties, people from both the Leave side and the Remain side in the European debate. But I think that is what is in the national interest – deal with the outcome, respect the outcome of the referendum of 2016 and leave the European Union with a deal that protects jobs, investment and living standards in this country.”