Britain will have to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23 as there is not enough time left to get an exit deal ratified by parliament before then, Prime Minister Theresa May's de facto deputy David Lidington said on Tuesday.
May had hoped to avoid taking part in the vote, but so far talks with the opposition Labour Party aimed at finding a way forward on Brexit have not succeeded in breaking the deadlock.
"It is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for the European parliamentary elections ... so those will now go ahead," Lidington, minister for the Cabinet Office, told reporters.
These fresh elections will cost just over €110 million.
But many in Britain, including May herself, believe them to be a waste of time. She said: 'I don’t believe it’s right to be in a situation of holding European parliamentary elections three years on from people having voted to leave the EU.'
The British public, on both the leave and on the remain sides, appears to be looking for ways to punish the traditional parties and send a message of revolt.
One figure leading the polls - Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage - has been criticised recently for appearing on a US talk show which focuses on conspiracy theories. But Farage is unfazed by the criticism, claiming he has a strong chance to be elected again as an MEP:
"In the areas that in 2014 voted (his former party) UKIP heavily and voted conservative heavily we are doing phenomenally well. In the areas that have been Labour areas - and I was in South Wales last night -we’re just beginning to make an imprint. So that’s the big message that we have to get out there and if we can succeed with that Labour vote the way we are with the Conservative vote then we will get a big win.”
And Farage is not a one-man band, as he has recently welcomed former Conservative Shadow Minister Ann Widdecombe into his ranks. She claims many of her old colleagues have given up on Theresa May.
‘Quite a large number of MPs, councillors, activists, are telling me privately they’re going to vote for the Brexit party in the Euro elections. It’s tempting to think that everybody’s very frustrated and fed up with it which they are, but they’re also very angry.’
Turnout in EU elections is historically low in the UK, but this year high numbers are expected to use their vote as a fresh ballot on Brexit.
Watch Vincent McAviney full report from the UK EU campaign trail in the player above.