European elections confirmed for May 23

The prime minister’s deputy David Lidington has confirmed that the UK will conduct European elections on May 23, after weeks of speculation that Theresa May could cut a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn to prevent the vote.

Mr Lidington said that it was “not going to be possible to finish that process” before the date of the vote, obliging the UK to elect members of the European Parliament – nearly three years after the country voted to leave the European Union.

“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted… 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.”

The news will anger Tory MPs while Nigel Farage’s insurgent Brexit Party leads polls for the European Parliament, leaving the Conservatives in a distant third place. Following devastating local election results which saw more than 1300 Tory councillors lose their seats, the prospect of a second drubbing in one month will only increase pressure on the prime minister to resign.