British government confirms European elections will take place

David Lidington confirmed European elections will take place on May 23. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

European Parliament elections will go ahead in the UK on May 23, after the British government determined that there is not enough time left to complete the ratification of Brexit before that date, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has said.

Speaking ahead of cross-party talks on Brexit, Mr Lidington said: "Parliament has had several occasions to vote on leaving the European Union.

"So far, every time there has been a majority against leaving with any particularly orderly deal, so we are engaged as a government in talks with the opposition, and with others across Parliament, to try and find a way forward that has maximum possible support amongst politicians of all political parties.

"But what this now means, given how little time there is, is that it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for European Parliamentary elections.

"We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place. But legally, they do have to take place - unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect - so those will now go ahead.

"But we will be redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs of all parties to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible. Ideally we'd like to be in a situation where those MEPs never actually have to take their seat at European Parliament, certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess.

"That will mean effort, hard work and compromise from different political parties, people from both the Leave side and the Remain side in the European debate. But I think that is what is in the national interest - deal with the outcome, respect the outcome of the referendum of 2016 and leave the European Union with a deal that protects jobs, investment and living standards in this country."

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