Despite having voted to leave the European Union more than two years ago, British Government failure to reach a consensus over the Brexit deal and ensuing extension mean British voters are set to vote in European Parliament elections next month. To secure a further extension to Britain's departure from the union until October 31, the United Kingdom's President Theresa May promised EU leaders at last week's summit that the UK would take part in the vote, causing a considerable embarrassment to her government. The country is set to elect 73 representatives to the European Parliament as the crunch exit date has been moved to the next six months.
The impending EU elections have meant that both of Britain's main political parties - Conservatives and Labour - are gearing up for elections with trepidation. New breakaway groups from the two parties and even new parties have begun to be formed to prepare for the election. The most prominent amongst them is the Brexit party formed to contest the upcoming European Parliament elections by Nigel Farage, MEP and former leader of the UK Independence party. Independent Group, which was recently formed by Labour and Tory MPs, also see the elections as a significant opportunity to win seats in the upcoming elections.
Tories and Labour fear a revolt against the political establishment in the poll, though both the parties are busy finalising their lists of candidates and drawing up manifestos. The conservative party is more concerned of a beating as many senior leaders predict the party could suffer a heavy defeat due to May's failure to deliver Brexit. In the last elections, the party sent 18 MEPs, but many in Brussels and Westminster believes the party will lose most of its MEPs if May is still the prime minister by the time of the poll.
The best hope for the party is to get the Brexit bill rectified in the parliament by May and avoid participation in the European elections. Polls have predicted that Tories will lose their seats in favour of Brexit parties. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has pushed for getting Brexit over the line before the 23rd of May, accepting that European elections could be disastrous for the Tories. Despite facing a mounting challenge, the party is planning to field a full slate of candidates. Labour is also planning to field a full slate of candidates and intends to spend close to £1m on the elections.
Although the party is on a firmer stand than Conservatives, many MEPs want the party to reconfirm its support for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal. Otherwise, many feels, Labour could lose support to parties which favour a second Brexit referendum.
Though Theresa May still insists that it can still pass the Withdrawal Agreement before the elections begin on May 23, the odds of her success look very slim as the similar deal has already failed three times in Westminster. The nascent campaign is shaping up to be a testy rerun of the 2016 referendum: Eurosceptics versus Europhiles and the prospect of new UK MEPs arriving in Brussels has divided EU political parties and leaders, with many claiming a British vote would poison the election campaign and "import the Brexit mess into EU politics".
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