The Brief – Cowering from Saint Nigel of Brexit

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“If we have one, we will let you know about it,” a Downing Street spokesman told reporters on Wednesday when asked when the Conservative party would be launching their European election campaign.

While Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party used the Easter holidays to rev up their campaign machine and secure over a week of near blanket media coverage, the Conservatives and Labour have barely mentioned the imminent European elections.

The reticence is scarcely surprising.

Most Tory activists will not only refuse to campaign but will probably vote against their own party if the European polls are eventually held across the UK.

More than 60% of party members and 40% of Tory local councillors are planning to vote for the Brexit party if the European elections go ahead in the UK. The Tories will struggle to do much better than 10% of the vote.

Meanwhile, by continuing to equivocate over whether and in what circumstances to support a new Brexit referendum, Labour will haemorrhage support, particularly among their overwhelmingly pro-Remain members.

Despite falling behind Farage’s party in the EU polls, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour shows no sign of getting off the fence any time soon, and is still pushing its Brexit plan for an EU-UK customs union which is, in terms of substance, not hugely different to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and as such a non-starter.

On Thursday, Andrew Adonis, a former cabinet minister, was forced to issue a painful climbdown from comments that Brexiteers should not vote Labour in the EU elections, presumably on party orders.

Having spent the last two years campaigning to stop Brexit, Adonis is now second on Labour’s slate in South-West England and has a decent chance of being elected. And that means toeing the party line on Brexit.

But equivocation is not the only problem facing pro-European parties.

On the pro-Remain side, the prospect of fragmentation is becoming increasingly likely. The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Change UK are all set to poll between 8 and 10% – enough to win a handful of seats each – but have refused to agree on a joint slate of candidates.

That makes it likely that more than 50% of Brits will vote for pro-Remain parties (if you include Labour), but Farage’s Brexit party will still comfortably top the poll.

The European elections will be a proxy for a second referendum, but without a strong performance from pro-Remain parties, the UK MEPs will only keep their jobs for a few short months.

If the Brexit party storms to victory and Theresa May is ousted by a hard Brexiteer, the game will be up and Saint Nigel of Brexit will have his final, and decisive, victory.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

If a referendum on EU membership were held across the bloc today, a majority in favour of remaining would be impossible to reach in the UK, Czech Republic and Italy.

With his Renaissance list, France’s Emmanuel Macron aims to shake up the political scene in the new European Parliament. EURACTIV’s Fact-check examines the accuracy of the campaign’s interpretation of EU electoral rules.

Merkel and Macron do not go hand in hand when it comes to the European elections. The French ruling party is using this for verbal attacks on the German Chancellor.

As the current president of the UN Security Council, Germany submitted a resolution that would oblige UN member states to become more involved in combatting sexual violence in armed conflicts.

Russia has offered passports to east Ukraine,  prompting calls from Kyiv for more international sanctions.

Prague will host a meeting of populist far-right party leaders seeking unprecedented success in European elections next month following a steep rise of anti-EU movements across Europe.

Already the first country in the world to legalise recreational use of marijuana, Uruguay now aims to go further by becoming the first in Latin America to export it for medicinal purposes.

Bringing emissions from heavy industry down to net-zero by 2050 is possible but will be costly.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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