Theresa May is set to meet with the leaders of the European member states in Brussels on Wednesday to seek a further extension to the Brexit process. The Prime Minister is expected to agree to new terms binding Britain to take part in European parliamentary elections in May to get extra time to draft a new withdrawal agreement with the help of the Labour Party. But European Union expert Darren McCaffrey told Euronews the Prime Minister could see the European election turn into a new referendum on Brexit.
Mr McCaffrey said: “Almost certainly, Theresa May is going to commit to European election this week. They will spend tens of millions of pounds on it.
“We may as well see those elections turn into a de facto referendum which could cause a great polarisation of views in Britain.”
The British reporter also suggested Mrs May could still decide to pull out of the election if the Labour Party and her own MPs reach a satisfactory alternative to her Brexit withdrawal agreement before the vote scheduled for May 23-May 26.
He continued: “Theresa May’s slim hope is that, somehow, over the next couple of weeks, her and Jeremy Corbyn do agree on a type of customs union and it does get through Parliament and at the last minute she can cancel those elections.
“I think, in reality, they are going to fight that and a lot of people will be angry.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman announced on Monday the British Government had launched preparations ahead of the May European vote but insisted Mrs May remained eager to reach an agreement by May 22.
The spokesman said: “It remains the Government’s intention to leave the EU with a deal and pass the necessary legislation before May 22, so that we do not need to participate in European parliamentary elections,” the spokesman said.
“As a responsible Government today we have taken the necessary steps required by law should we have to participate.
“The Day of Poll Order provides returning officers with a date to hold potential European Parliamentary elections, but it does not make these elections inevitable as leaving the EU before the date of election automatically removes our obligation to take part.”
The Prime Minister on Tuesday travelled to Germany and France to meet with the country’s respective leaders, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
Following her meeting with the German Chancellor, Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “If you look at what the PM has proposed in her letter, she asked for an extension to June 30 at the latest.
“A very important part of that request is that if we are able to reach an agreement domestically by May 22, we would be able to leave at that point.
“That is very important because we wouldn’t have to contest European elections, which the Prime Minister doesn’t believe is in the best interest of the UK.”
Upon Mrs May’s return from the continent, Conservative and Labour will resume discussion with the Government on the prospect of a customs union with the European Union to reach a Brexit compromise.
Opposition parties have resumed talks as they try to break the impasse around Britain’s exit from the bloc and agree on something that can persuade Parliament to vote through a deal.