With no sign of a majority forthcoming in the House of Commons and just 12 days until the UK is set to leave the EU, a lengthy extension to Article 50 is expected. The indication is a three-month delay will be the most likely outcome which will force voters in the UK to cast their ballot papers in the upcoming May election, despite voting to leave the bloc more than three years ago in the 2016 EU referendum. The Electoral Commission has already outlined a set of guidelines for the upcoming vote which states “on May 23, 2019, voters in the United Kingdom will cast their ballot to elect 73 Members of the European Parliament”, the Sunday Telegraph has revealed.
Bob Posner, the Commission’s chief executive, said £686,000 has been allocated to stage the elections, however this must be approved by a Commons committee chaired by the Speaker John Bercow.
In a letter to Jane Collins, a Ukip MEP, he said: “It is important that we support parties and campaigners to make the necessary contingency plans. We have therefore issued guidance which will provide political parties and non-party campaigners with helpful information and support in the event of the elections going ahead, noting that we are now in what would be the regulated period for the poll.”
However, this sparked outrage from Ms Collins, who ridiculed the decision and stated this highlights “the incompetence of Theresa May’s Brexit strategy”.
She added: “MPs will delay Brexit as long as they possibly can and if we are still members by May 23 we will need to re-elect MEPs. A country that voted to leave could, almost three years later, end up sending MEPs back to Brussels, such is the incompetence of Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. It makes a mockery of democracy.”
Meanwhile, another Tory MP feared the party “would get massacred” in the vote.
The MP said: “I struggle to think what our manifesto would be. We would get massacred. God knows what our selection process would be. What on earth would we be telling voters?
“If the third meaningful vote is defeated we will begin making sure we are ready to take part in the elections.”
Many Brexiteers are already sceptical about a delay to Article 50 and the fresh set of guidelines, could spark support behind Mrs May’s deal in the final vote this week.
Already it is understood up to 75 eurosceptics may be willing to support the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement.
High-Profile Eurosceptics including David Davis, Esther McVey and Daniel Kawczynski have already publicly got behind the deal in a huge boost to the Prime Minister.
Mrs May will travel to Brussels on Thursday and will ask the EU for a shorter extension if her deal passes through the Commons.
The Prime Minister today warned MPs that if they fail to back her Brexit a delay would be inevitable.
Mrs May said it would be a “potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure” if a delay to Brexit meant the UK was forced to take part in May’s European elections almost three years after voting to leave.