The government has admitted that it won’t get Theresa May’s Brexit deal in time to avoid holding EU elections on May 23.
De facto deputy prime minister David Lidington confirmed the elections but said the government was “redoubling” efforts to get a withdrawal agreement through by July, so that elected MEPs don’t need to take their seat.
Versions of the current deal have already been rejected three times in parliament.
The government has been holding cross-party talks for the last month in an attempt to get a deal agreed in time to cancel the elections.
Labour is committed to keeping the UK in a customs union, a position deemed unacceptable to hardline Brexiteers within the Tory party.
Now, Lidington has confirmed that time is simply too tight.
READ: DENIS MACSHANE: Chances of a Brexit deal between May and Corbyn are becoming less and less likelyREAD: I don’t trust Theresa May, says John McDonnell after media reports on Brexit talks“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,” he said.
“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.”