UK lays plans to contest European elections | News | DW | 08.04.2019
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UK lays plans to contest European elections

Prime Minister May's Conservative Party stressed that it was not "inevitable" that Britain take part. British political parties remain deadlocked over how to handle the country's exit from Europe.

The British government said on Monday that it had taken the legal steps to participate in upcoming EU elections, while stressing that it was not "inevitable" that the UK would take part.

"As a responsible government today we have taken the necessary steps required by law should we have to participate," a spokesman said in a statement. "It does not make these elections inevitable, as leaving the EU before the date of election automatically removes our obligation to take part."

May's Conservative party seemed to be at pains to make clear that it would be participating only grudgingly:

Currently, Britain is set to leave Europe on Friday, but Prime Minister Theresa May has asked that the deadline be pushed back a second time, until June 30th.

Extension on the table

On Monday, British lawmakers passed a new law forcing the government to ask EU leaders for a delay to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

An extension would necessitate approval from all 27 EU leaders, many of whom have made it clear that they had had enough of Brexit uncertainty. French President Emmanuel Macron has accused the UK of holding Europe "hostage" to its domestic political crisis.

May's draft Brexit deal has been rejected by UK parliament three times, and attempts at compromise with the opposition Labour party appear to be deadlocked. Labour has expressed a desire for a "softer" Brexit probably involving remaining in a customs union with the EU, and EU officials hinted on Monday that such a deal — if desired — could probably be accommodated.

Read more: In a spin: Brexit spells trouble for UK vinyl industry

'Existential threat'

Elections for the European Parliament are due to begin on May 23 and end on May 26. The current deadline for leaving, this Friday, is seen by the EU as the latest point by which the UK would have to decide whether it was holding European elections or not. 

Some reports have suggested that the EU is likely to instead offer May a longer extension than her desired end-of-June date, again meaning the UK would have to take part in next month's vote. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, Childrens' Minister Nahim Zahawi made it clear that the established parties were worried at the prospect of a European vote in the UK in the current climate.

"I think going into the EU elections for the Conservative Party, or indeed for the Labour Party, and telling our constituents why we haven't been able to deliver Brexit I think would be an existential threat," Zahawi, who campaigned to leave, said. "I would go further and say it would be the suicide note of the Conservative Party."

Read more: 'Endless soap called Brexit'

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ls,es/aw (AP, Reuters)

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