Tories slump to new low in polls as Farage's Brexit Party surges
THE Conservatives have admitted the European elections will be painful, after the party slumped into fourth place in an opinion poll, far behind Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party in top spot.
Almost three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, the Brexit process has become mired in chaos with Prime Minister Theresa May's inability so far to get a deal through parliament fuelling anger among voters.
With little movement in talks between the government and the opposition Labour Party, the elections to the European Parliament on May 23 will offer a new opportunity for voters to show discontent.
Both of Britain's main parties, which are deeply divided over how to leave the EU, will be punished by frustrated Britons at the ballot box.
"I don't think anyone is in any doubt these are going to be difficult elections for us... for some people this is the ultimate protest vote opportunity," Education Secretary Damian Hinds said yesterday.
According to the latest Opinium poll for the 'Observer' newspaper, Mr Farage's party is on 34pc before the European election, with Labour in second place on 21pc and the Tories back in fourth on 11pc.
Mrs May's government hopes Britons elected to the European Parliament will not need to take their seats. She aims to get a divorce deal passed by parliament before the end of June. But talks with Labour, to try to secure what ministers describe as the "stable majority" in parliament to get the Withdrawal Agreement ratified, have yet to find a breakthrough which would offer the government opposition votes.
Labour policy chiefs offered little optimism that an agreement was in the offing, and Gavin Williamson, who was sacked as defence minister this month, said yesterday the talks "can only ever end in tears".
Meanwhile, a poll in the 'Daily Telegraph' found the Brexit Party has overtaken the Conservatives in national polling for the first time, with Nigel Farage predicted to win 49 seats in a general election.
The ComRes survey found that if a general election campaign led by Mrs May took place now, Labour would become the largest party by a margin of 137 seats, allowing Jeremy Corbyn to lead a minority government as the Tories fell to third place in terms of vote share.
It would give the Tories their worst result in history - confirming the fears of Conservatives who decry the prime minister's handling of Brexit.