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A new opinion poll for the European elections in the UK on 23 May has put the Brexit Party in first place, outperforming the combined total for the Conservatives and Labour. The Opinium survey for the Observer showed the Brexit party on 34%, with Labour in second place on 21%, the Liberal Democrats in third place on 12% and the Conservatives in fourth place on 11%. The poll also showed the Green Party in fifth place on 8%, UKIP and the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 4% each and Change UK: The Independent Group on 3%. Meanwhile, a new poll by YouGov for The Times sets the Brexit Party in the lead for the European elections with 34%, followed by the Labour Party with 16%. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party follows with 15% and 11% respectively. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party comes fifth, polling at 10%.
Elsewhere, a Com Res poll for Brexit Express for Westminster voting intentions put the Labour Party in the lead on 27%, the Brexit Party in second place on 20% and the Conservatives in third place with 19%. The Liberal Democrats were on 14%, Change UK, 7%, Greens, 5%, and UKIP and the SNP on 3% each.
Commenting on the Observer opinion poll, Open Europe’s Henry Newman said, “If you add together the Brexit Party vote, the UKIP vote and the Tory vote, you’ve already got basically half of the vote share. If you added in some of the Labour vote, which at least is facing half-way towards Leave, you’ve got a lot of the electorate who are still very strongly backing Brexit, which runs completely counter to the narrative that people are changing their mind.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, the Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said, “there’s a complete breakdown of trust between the people in this country and our politicians,” adding that if his party won the European elections, “I’m going to demand that Brexit Party MEPs become part of a Government negotiating team.” Farage also said there would be “no manifestos from the Brexit Party,” but that the party’s policy was to “leave with a clean break Brexit.”
The Guardian ComRes Henry Newman BBC - Andrew Marr Show The Times Reuters
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that the Conservatives “don’t actually want MEPs to be having to take their seats,” adding, “Our plan is very, very clear. We should have left the European Union already.” Hinds described the European elections as the “ultimate protest vote opportunity,” and “for some people it is a second referendum.” This comes as former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s approach to cross-party talks. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Williamson said that May “is now seen by many in the Conservative Party as negotiating with the enemy,” and predicted that a cross-party deal could end up with the support of “less than half the Conservative MPs.”
Elsewhere, the Labour MP and Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, told Sky News that people in the UK are “angry that the referendum result has not been delivered on by an incompetent government and there is the protest that is being signalled by those [opinion poll figures.” Asked if the “Labour position is that we should leave the EU,” Gardiner said, “That’s what we’ve been trying to do with these negotiations with the Government, that’s why we’re there.” He added that while Labour supported a customs union and maintaining workplace rights and protections, “it’s important that as a country we respect the promises that we made and the democratic decision of the people.”
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The Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, has said that “probably 120 if not 150” Labour MPs would not vote for a cross-party Brexit deal that did not include a confirmatory vote or second referendum. In an interview with the Guardian, Starmer said it would be “very difficult” to find a Parliamentary majority for any deal and claimed there was a “considerable distance” between the Government and the Labour party as the cross-party talks continued. Starmer also said it was “wrong in principle” to continue talks “exploring each other’s positions,” adding that it was necessary to make an assessment on the future of the talks “in the coming days.”
Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, told the BBC he was “annoyed” about leaks on the progress of the talks, adding, “It doesn’t inspire confidence when half way through a conversation someone breaks the rules.” This comes as Prisons Minister, Robert Buckland, said a General Election “would probably have to happen” if Parliament was faced with a choice between No Deal and a revocation of Article 50.
Elsewhere, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, told LBC yesterday that she had met the minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, adding that a second referendum on membership of the EU is a possibility the “Government has considered in terms of how that could be done.” This comes as Chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday that the Committee had asked Prime Minister Theresa May to provide “clarity” regarding her future plans, adding that she “offered to come and meet with the executive.” Brady also said, “It would be strange for that not to result in a clear understanding [of when May will leave] at the end of the meeting.”
Speaking on BBC Sunday Politics Northern Ireland, Open Europe’s Henry Newman said, “It is very difficult to see exactly how a [cross-party] deal can be done. On substantive policy there is actually very little difference between either side…As long as the Labour Party are talking about both leaving the European Union and leaving the Single Market, we’re really arguing over a very narrow strip of land. In terms of the politics, it’s much harder.”
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The former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has criticised the Labour Party’s policy on Brexit, saying that the party’s ambiguity on the question has “pleased no one” and “let down the country.” Writing in the Observer, Blair said that “many Labour supporters are genuinely conflicted about voting Labour,” but that for the moment “every vote against the Brexit extremism is important.” Blair confirmed that he would vote Labour but urged Remain voters who think they could not support Labour to vote for one of the “unequivocal Remain parties” instead.
Meanwhile, speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Blair claimed that it was a “fundamental strategic fallacy” of both main parties to believe that “there’s a compromised form of Brexit that will satisfy and bring together both sides.” He predicted that the Brexit Party could outperform its current position in the opinion polls but claimed that a No Deal Brexit would lead to a “silent revolution in this country as well.”
Elsewhere, speaking at an event in London, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the divisions in the country over Brexit “are now so deep and so pervasive that it could take a generation for us to reconcile these differences.”
Sky News - Sophy Ridge on Sunday
French President Emmanuel Macron’s party En Marche hosted a meeting in Strasbourg on Saturday with other centrist political parties from around Europe. The parties plan to form a new group in the European Parliament with a centrist, liberal agenda.
Meanwhile, a new YouGov poll carried out in eight European countries (Germany, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, and France) reveals that 61% of respondents believe the EU is a “a good thing” for their countries, with 35% saying that they wish more powers were transferred from member states to EU institutions. 28% think the EU should give some powers back to member states, while 19% consider the balance between competences “ideal.”
Elsewhere, in a piece for The Article, Open Europe’s Anna Nadibaidze argues,”the unity of the EU27 declared at Sibiu will be put to a number of serious tests in the coming months.” Separately, in an article for Reaction, Open Europe’s Zoe Alipranti argues, “the Sibiu summit exemplifies how the EU project is being defined by stalled momentum, caused largely by a continued fracturing into smaller blocs.”
Open Europe has today published a new briefing, “The 2019 European Parliamentary elections and the future of the European project.” The paper analyses the upcoming 2019 European Parliamentary elections and their potential consequences, both in terms of the general future of the European project and the day-to-day functioning of the EU institutions. The briefing’s authors, Dominic Walsh and Zoe Alipranti, argue that the elections “are likely to reflect the increasing fragmentation and polarisation experienced across the liberal democracies of the West, including in the national politics of several EU member states.” They note that while Eurosceptic parties are expected to do well, their success should be seen as “a consolidation of the Eurosceptic and anti-establishment surge witnessed in 2014, rather than a second surge… Pro-Europeans will not be able to blame Eurosceptics if the Parliament’s legislative stagnation continues for another five years.” They conclude, however, that the “depiction of this election as a great turning point in a battle between progressive liberalism versus populism for the future of the continent is wide of the mark. The European Parliament… is not instrumental in setting the strategic direction of the Union or key constitutional issues, such as the future of Eurozone reform, which is largely a matter for national governments.” The briefing can be accessed here.