LONDON: A new pro-EU political party is launching its campaign Tuesday for next month’s European elections, as British lawmakers return from an Easter break to fresh bids to topple Prime Minister Theresa May.
The government and the main opposition Labour party are also set to resume talks later to resolve the deadlock over Brexit after weeks of prior negotiations showed little signs of progress.
Britain is mired in a deep political crisis over its departure from the European Union, three years after a divisive referendum that voted to pull Britain out of the bloc after nearly half a century.
May was forced to ask EU leaders earlier this month to postpone Brexit for a second time – from April 12 to October 31 – after MPs repeatedly rejected the divorce deal she has struck with Brussels.
She is still hoping to persuade Labour to support the plan so the country can leave in time to avoid taking part in the European Parliament elections on May 23.
But with one month to go, few are expecting a consensus to emerge and Britain’s political parties old and new are scrambling to organise for the upcoming polls.
Change UK, formed by breakaway MPs from Britain’s two main parties, will unveil its roster of candidates at an event in Bristol in southwest England.
The avidly anti-Brexit party – initially called The Independent Group – is pitching itself as the “natural home” for voters wanting a second referendum and the chance to stay in the EU.
It is expected to field as many as 70 candidates after receiving more than 1,000 applications from former Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat and Green activists, its leadership has said.
Anti-EU firebrand Nigel Farage launched his new Brexit Party’s campaign earlier this month, vowing to put “the fear of God into our members of parliament”.
The former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, who led that party to first place the last time Britain held European elections in 2014, has seen his new grouping surge in the polls since the launch. It will also on Tuesday announce its latest tranche of candidates in London.
May’s Conservative Party is watching nervously, with predictions its share of the vote could plummet amid voter discontent over her handling of Brexit.
MPs are agitating for the prime minister, who has agreed to resign once the first phase of the exit process is finished, to make way for a new leader now.
Nigel Evans, a senior member of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, told the BBC on Tuesday he would be “delighted” if she announced her resignation immediately.
“We could then have an orderly election to choose a new leader of the Conservative Party,” he said. “I believe the only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership.”
On Monday it emerged May could face an unprecedented vote of confidence in her leadership after dozens of local Conservative association chiefs signed a petition in support of a poll.
They called for an extraordinary general meeting of the party’s rank and file so they could hold the non-binding vote, according to reports.
May survived a vote of confidence by her own MPs in December and under party rules cannot be challenged again for a year.
But the move could increase pressure on the 1922 Committee to find a way of forcibly removing her from office.
Amid the rumblings of discontent, May is set to chair a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.- AFP