Tory HQ admits it WILL be taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23

Conservative HQ has made an embarrassing U-turn on a mass email saying Britain will be taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23 – with party chairman Brandon Lewis now insisting this was still only a last resort. 

Mrs May has insisted for months she does not want Britain to take part in the EU elections and as recently as last week said she wanted to avoid it.

But an email to Tory candidates earlier this evening said: ‘Due to the current situation we will be contesting the European Elections on 23 May 2019 and the closing date for nominations is 24 April.’

However, in subsequent comments Mr Lewis rowed back on the remarks, from Tory head of candidates Gareth Fox, insisting the Government still intended to leave with a deal before the polls. 

He suggested Mr Fox’s email was only outlining what would happen if this ambition is not achieved. 

Running the national election would cost the taxpayer at least £100million and force political parties to spend millions more on campaign materials. 

In a fresh humiliation for Theresa May, her party started recruitment for candidates tonight ahead of the official calling of the elections tomorrow

In a fresh humiliation for Theresa May, her party started recruitment for candidates tonight ahead of the official calling of the elections tomorrow

In a fresh humiliation for Theresa May, her party started recruitment for candidates tonight ahead of the official calling of the elections tomorrow

The Conservative Party finally admitted it will be taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23 almost three years after the Brexit vote

The Conservative Party finally admitted it will be taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23 almost three years after the Brexit vote

The Conservative Party finally admitted it will be taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23 almost three years after the Brexit vote

In her letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk on Friday, Theresa May asked for a fresh delay to Brexit that could be cut short if the deal passes in time to avoid the election. 

The EU has insisted Britain elect new MEPs if it wants to delay Brexit by extending Article 50 – warning the UK cannot stay in the bloc for longer without them. 

Mr Lewis’ email this evening read: ‘The Government’s clear policy is to leave the EU with a deal and for the necessary legislation to pass before 22 May so that the UK does not need to participate in European Parliamentary elections.

‘However, if the UK had not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement and were still a Member State of the European Union on 23 May, we would be under a legal obligation to hold the elections.

‘With the closing date for the nominations on 24 April, it is clear that we need to make contingency plans as a Part in the event of these elections going ahead.

‘This is why Gareth Fox emailed you earlier today to outline how we ensure we are prepared for any eventuality.’  

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WITH BREXIT?

MONDAY APRIL 8: LABOUR WAIT FOR BREXIT DEAL OFFER

Theresa May paved the way for a customs union deal with Labour last night as she pledged to ‘compromise’ to ensure Brexit happens.

Ministers were out in force today repeating this message but Labour said they are waiting for an offer from the PM so talks can move forward.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said ‘the ball is in the Government’s court’. 

TUESDAY APRIL 9: PM’S EUROPEAN TOUR 

The Prime Minister will fly meet Angela Merkel in Berlin and then on to Paris to see Emmanuel Macron as she tried to convince European leaders to back her plea to extend Article 50 until June 30.

Donald Tusk says EU leaders should demand a delay until March 31, 2020 – but Mr Macron is said to be considering forcing the UK out of the EU unless they face ‘strict’ conditions. 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 10: EU SUMMIT

Another summit with EU leaders – where May will ask for a new delay beyond April 12. 

May’s new plan is to strike a cross-party consensus in London and persuade EU leaders it means the deal can be delivered in time for Brexit on May 22.

She may have to accept a longer extension that means holding EU elections, as Brussels has made clear this is a red line – and will take a decision on delay without Britain and it must be unanimous. 

EU officials including Michel Barnier have warned that the risk of an accidental No Deal is increasing if May arrives with no plan.

FRIDAY APRIL 12: BREXIT DAY

Britain is due to leave the EU without a deal on this date if no delay is agreed. 

Brexiteer MPs reacted with fury after Mr Fox’s original email was leaked.  

Sources in the hardline European Research Group told MailOnline: ‘It’s good to know that Theresa May can say bad things with certainty.

‘If it’s set to destroy the party, she’s firm of purpose and pushes on. Corbyn and Barnier are very, very lucky to have her.’ 

Tory MP Bob Seely said: ‘Wish this was a week-late April foo wind-up. If true, let’s hope we pull out beforehand.

‘This is really going to wind-up our voters, and not surprisingly.’ 

In other developments today, Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May’s refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street.

After meeting with his shadow cabinet about the state of the cross-party talks, the Labour leader said he was ‘frustrated’ the Prime Minister’s actions were not matching her calls for compromise. 

Mrs May has enraged her own side by inviting Mr Corbyn to talks on finding a compromise that can get her Brexit deal through Parliament. Downing Street and Labour have agreed to more talks between officials tonight. 

There are persistent rumours in Westminster Mrs May is poised to over Labour a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit – despite the the threat of resignations from the Brexiteer wing of her Cabinet if she effectively rules out hopes of new trade deals after Brexit.

But the concession could be the only way to get Labour behind her deal. Mr Corbyn has long demanded a permanent customs union be the basis of the final UK-EU trade deal.

Britain currently has 73 members of the European Parliament following the 2014 election, which Ukip won while it was led by Nigel Farage (pictured in the European Parliament last month)

Britain currently has 73 members of the European Parliament following the 2014 election, which Ukip won while it was led by Nigel Farage (pictured in the European Parliament last month)

Britain currently has 73 members of the European Parliament following the 2014 election, which Ukip won while it was led by Nigel Farage (pictured in the European Parliament last month) 

Labour insists it would negotiate a ‘UK say’ on new EU trade deals once Britain has left the bloc but even if achieved this falls far short of the Leave vision of Britain as a major free trade player on the global stage.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 Committee said there was not ‘at the moment’ a deal as he left Downing Street this afternoon.

Earlier, Mrs May met Brexiteer ministers including Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier.

She held further talks with Remainer ministers including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke later.

The meetings come amid claims by the Telegraph that Mrs May’s deputy David Lidington is poised to make a written offer to Labour. Talks are ongoing about what it should say on a customs union and new public vote.  

Mrs May has cancelled tomorrow’s full-blown Cabinet so she can travel to Paris and Berlin for talks on delaying Brexit ahead of an EU summit on Wednesday.  There are mounting fears French President Emmanuel Macron could use the summit to trash what is left of Mrs May’s plans for a prompt Brexit.

Ahead of No 10 talks, hardline Brexiteers launched a new bid to oust Mrs May as Tory MP Mark Francois publicly demanded a new vote on her leadership. 

Unless Mrs May secures a delay to Brexit at the EU summit on Wednesday, Britain will leave without a deal at 11pm on Friday. 

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May's refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May's refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May’s refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

After meeting with his shadow cabinet about the state of the cross-party talks, the Labour leader said he was 'frustrated' the Prime Minister's actions were not matching her calls for compromise

After meeting with his shadow cabinet about the state of the cross-party talks, the Labour leader said he was 'frustrated' the Prime Minister's actions were not matching her calls for compromise

After meeting with his shadow cabinet about the state of the cross-party talks, the Labour leader said he was ‘frustrated’ the Prime Minister’s actions were not matching her calls for compromise 

‘Frustrated’ Corbyn blasts May for refusing to move her red lines in Brexit talks after meeting with Cabinet Brexiteers in No 10 

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May’s refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street.

After meeting with his shadow cabinet about the state of the cross-party talks, the Labour leader said he was ‘frustrated’ the Prime Minister’s actions were not matching her calls for compromise. 

Mrs May has enraged her own side by inviting Mr Corbyn to talks on finding a compromise that can get her Brexit deal through Parliament. Downing Street and Labour have agreed to more talks between officials tonight.

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May's refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May's refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

Jeremy Corbyn slammed Theresa May’s refusal to budge off her red lines tonight after the Prime Minister met Brexiteer ministers and top Tory MPs in Downing Street

There are persistent rumours in Westminster Mrs May is poised to over Labour a permanent customs union with the EU after Brexit – despite the the threat of resignations from the Brexiteer wing of her Cabinet if she effectively rules out hopes of new trade deals after Brexit.

But the concession could be the only way to get Labour behind her deal. Mr Corbyn has long demanded a permanent customs union be the basis of the final UK-EU trade deal.

Labour insists it would negotiate a ‘UK say’ on new EU trade deals once Britain has left the bloc but even if achieved this falls far short of the Leave vision of Britain as a major free trade player on the global stage.

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 Committee said there was not ‘at the moment’ a deal as he left Downing Street this afternoon.

Earlier, Mrs May met Brexiteer ministers including Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier.

She held further talks with Remainer ministers including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke later.

The meetings come amid claims by the Telegraph that Mrs May’s deputy David Lidington is poised to make a written offer to Labour. Talks are ongoing about what it should say on a customs union and new public vote.  

Mrs May has cancelled tomorrow’s full-blown Cabinet so she can travel to Paris and Berlin for talks on delaying Brexit ahead of an EU summit on Wednesday.  There are mounting fears French President Emmanuel Macron could use the summit to trash what is left of Mrs May’s plans for a prompt Brexit.

Ahead of No 10 talks, hardline Brexiteers launched a new bid to oust Mrs May as Tory MP Mark Francois publicly demanded a new vote on her leadership. 

Unless Mrs May secures a delay to Brexit at the EU summit on Wednesday, Britain will leave without a deal at 11pm on Friday.   

A raft of ministers have threatened to quit the Government if Mrs May pivots to a soft Brexit to salvage her deal, which has been trounced three times by MPs.

But if Mrs May does not move to Labour she faces even more resignations from the Remain wing over the threat of No Deal.

Instead of Cabinet tomorrow, Mrs May will hold a showdown with Emmanuel Macron in Paris as the French President considers his own ‘de Gaulle moment’ with Brexit and could force Britain out of the EU.

Mr Macron is urging the EU to turn the screw on Britain by demanding ‘strict’ conditions if Article 50 is extended at a Brussels summit on Wednesday or demand No Deal.

The Prime Minister will also jet to Berlin tomorrow for emergency talks with Angela Merkel – and will be calling some of the other 27 EU leaders in the next 24 hours – as soft Brexit talks with Labour hang in the balance.

She will meet the German Chancellor before the French President ahead of the EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday where she will beg them to delay Brexit until June 30.

But with the EU pushing for a 12-month extension, the PM may ask the two leaders to push her request for a shorter delay as she faces mass ministerial resignations if Brexit is stopped until March 31, 2020. 

Earlier, Mrs May met Brexiteer ministers including Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier.

Earlier, Mrs May met Brexiteer ministers including Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier.

Earlier, Mrs May met Brexiteer ministers including Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling earlier. 

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt arrived for the meeting of senior minsters today

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt arrived for the meeting of senior minsters today

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt arrived for the meeting of senior minsters today  

Mr Macron wants the UK to commit to not to disrupt the EU’s business after Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, said Britain should be ‘as difficult as possible’ in the event of a long extension and frustrate EU budget decisions.

If not he could choose to say ‘non’ to Mrs May, as General Charles de Gaulle of France did twice when he vetoed Britain’s bid to join the EEC in the 1960s.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is flying to Dublin for emergency talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar amid fears Britain could end up with No Deal.

To avert this Mrs May, who will cancel a crunch cabinet meeting because of her German visit, is risking civil war with her own party by pursuing a softer Brexit, with Boris Johnson calling it a ‘surrender’ and warning his party leader: ‘It cannot, must not and will not happen’.  

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