Britain’s governing Conservative Party was all but wiped out in the European Parliament election as voters sick of the country’s stalled European Union exit flocked to uncompromisingly pro-Brexit or pro-EU parties. The main opposition Labour Party also faced a drubbing in a vote that upended the traditional order of British politics and plunged the country into even more Brexit uncertainty. The big winners were the newly founded Brexit Party led by veteran anti-EU campaigner Nigel Farage and the strongly pro-European Liberal Democrats. With results announced early Monday for all of England and Wales, the Brexit Party had won 28 of the 73 British EU seats up for grabs and almost a third of the votes. The Liberal Democrats took about 20% of the vote and 15 seats — up from only one at the last EU election in 2014. Labour came third with 10 seats, followed by the Greens with seven. The ruling Conservatives were in fifth place with just three EU seats and under 10% of the vote. Scotland and Northern Ireland are due to announce their results later. Farage’s Brexit Party was one of several nationalist and populist parties making gains across the continent in an election that saw erosion of support for the traditionally dominant political parties. Conservative Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was a “painful result” and warned there was an “existential risk to our party unless we now come together and get Brexit done.” The results reflect an electorate deeply divided over Britain’s 2016
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will urge both pro-EU voters and Brexit supporters on Thursday to vote for his opposition party at this month’s European election, a poll he blamed on the Conservative government’s “complete failure” to steer the country out of the bloc.
Again setting out Labour’s stance that a second referendum is an option only to stop the government’s “bad deal” or leaving the European Union without an agreement, Corbyn will call on voters to see beyond divisions over Brexit to back his party.
The need to contest elections to the European Parliament on May 23 - after the country failed to meet an original March 29 deadline and still has not agreed on a deal for the departure - poses difficulties for both Labour and Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives.
Both parties have internal divisions over Europe and both were punished by voters in local elections last week over the delay to Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May could reach a Brexit deal with the opposition Labour Party within days, a leading Conservative Party figure said on Saturday, after senior ministers urged compromise following poor local election results.
Ruth Davidson, the Conservatives’ leader in Scotland, told party members that a cross-partisan agreement on Brexit was needed before this month’s European elections, or Britain’s major parties would face an even bigger backlash from voters.
The Conservatives lost 1,332 seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour - which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote - instead lost 81.
Many voters expressed frustration at May’s failure to have taken Britain out of the European Union, almost three years after the country decided to leave in a referendum.
“If we thought yesterday’s results were a wake-up call, just wait for the European elections on the 23rd of May,” Davidson told a party conference in Aberdeen.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party resisted calls to unconditionally embrace a second referendum on Tuesday, restating its support for such a vote only if the government refuses to change its EU deal or there is no new election.
With Britain’s delayed departure from the European Union far from clear, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been under pressure from lawmakers and party members to throw his support behind a second referendum, or confirmatory vote, on any Brexit deal.
But the veteran Socialist, a long-time eurosceptic, has stuck firmly to his position that a second vote was an option to prevent what Labour calls a “damaging” Conservative Brexit or to stop Britain leaving without a deal.
“The legal summary document is worse than we feared: the backstop customs union is indefinite, the UK would be a rule taker and the European Court (of Justice) is in charge of our destiny, rather than the sovereign UK parliament,” former Brexit minister David Davis said. “This is not Brexit.”
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, speaking in the House of Commons, said: “I am an HIV-positive man, but because I’ve been taking the right medication for several years, I am what the NHS calls HIV-positive ‘undetectable’. Next year I’ll be marking an anniversary of my own: 10 years since I became HIV positive.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday he would advise Labour Party lawmakers to vote down a Brexit divorce deal that Theresa May is trying to clinch with the European Union.
“My view is this only happens if there is blockage in parliament. But if there is blockage in parliament it is a very simple argument. You say look we have been two and a bit years trying to reach an agreement that works, parliament is blocked.”
With just over six months until Britain leaves the European Union, Theresa May has yet to reach a deal with Brussels on the terms of the divorce, and her plan for future trade ties has been rebuffed by both the EU and many lawmakers in her own party. Keir Starmer said: “Everybody recognises the talks are going badly and it looks as though we’re heading for a bad deal or even no deal. We, the Labour Party, are going to vote down a bad deal or we’re going to vote down no deal because that is not good for our country nor is it what people voted for.”
“If we come out of conference with her hoping to get Chequers through on the back of Labour votes, I think the EU negotiators would probably understand that if that were done, the Tory party would suffer the catastrophic split which thus far we have managed to avoid,” Steve Baker, a former junior Brexit minister was quoted as saying.
The code of conduct makes clear that even “contentious” comments “will not be treated as anti-Semitism unless accompanied by specific anti-Semitic content… or by any other evidence of anti-Semitic intent”.
It says: “The party will encourage considered and respectful debate on these difficult topics, but will not tolerate name-calling and abuse.”