Brexit: The past seven days

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Leader of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage with former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, who has defected from the Conservatives to join the Brexit Party, in Westminster. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It was the week when everyone had to get their heads round the idea that, despite voting to leave the EU three years ago, the UK is almost certainly going to be electing MEPs to the European Parliament.

So what has happened and what will happen next?

– Days to go

188, if Brexit comes on the latest deadline of October 31. Or 26, if Theresa May somehow gets a deal ratified in time to cancel the European elections on May 23. Or 65, if ratification happens in time for the UK to leave on June 30 and avoid the need for MEPs to take up their seats.

– What happened this week?

Cross-party talks between the Government and Labour resumed after an 11-day break during the Easter recess, but there was precious little sign of progress. Mrs May accused Labour of dragging its feet, while Jeremy Corbyn retorted that the PM was not budging on her red lines.

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Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer led his party in talks (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

As negotiations on the Brexit deal took a back seat, focus shifted to preparations for the European elections, with high-profile launches of lists of candidates for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the pro-Remain Change UK. Meanwhile, the threat of an early end to Mrs May’s tenure as Conservative leader was lifted, as the backbench 1922 Committee rejected demands from Brexit-backing MPs to enable a confidence vote in June.

– What happens next?

The Government must introduce its Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the Commons over the coming week to have any chance of avoiding Euro-elections. It is understood that Mrs May is ready to table the Bill, which would ratify her deal, even if compromise with Labour has not been reached. But she will not do so if she risks defeat, as this would force her to bring the parliamentary session to an end and reintroduce her Brexit legislation in a new Queen’s Speech.

POLITICS Brexit
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Mrs May faces a public grilling on her handling of Brexit by senior backbench MPs at the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday and English council elections on Thursday will give a pointer to voters’ judgment on her efforts.

– Good week

Nigel Farage

The former Ukip leader saw his new Brexit Party outstrip the Conservatives and challenge Labour in the polls for the European elections as he unveiled high-profile candidates including former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe.

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Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage campaigned in Clacton (Joe Giddens/PA)

– Bad week

Sir Vince Cable

The Liberal Democrat leader was snubbed by the Change UK movement set up by former Labour and Tory MPs in his appeal for a joint Remain ticket for the European elections.

– Quote of the week

“Removing Theresa May has become like a trip to the dentist. It’s something that’s got to be done, and the longer you leave it the worse it will be.” Greig Baker, the chairman of the Canterbury Conservative Association

– Tweet of the week

“I thought this was a spoof account when I read this on my friend Andrew Adonis’ page but then I remembered he is now standing for ⁦@UKLabour⁩ in the European elections and so has been gagged by the leadership. Bye bye #PeoplesVote+Remain, hello soft Brexit. So disappointing.” Change UK spokesman Chuka Umunna, on Lord Adonis’s apology for suggesting that Leave supporters should not vote Labour.

– Word of the week

Democracy

Repeated endlessly by Brexit-backing candidates including Ms Widdecombe, this is what Mr Farage says his party is defending in the May 23 poll.

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