Britain will take part in the European Parliament elections on 23 May, a government minister has confirmed.
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said Downing Street has determined that there is not enough time left to complete the ratification of a Brexit deal before then.
Speaking ahead of cross-party talks with Labour, he admitted that “given how little time there is, is that it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for European Parliamentary elections”.
Mr Lidington continued: “We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place.
“But legally, they do have to take place – unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect – so those will now go ahead.
“But we will be redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs of all parties to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible.”
Mr Lidington admission comes on the last day for voters to register to cast a ballot in the elections.
Britain’s participation in the European elections, almost three years after the 2016 EU referendum, comes as Prime Minister Theresa May continues to struggle to get a deal through Parliament.
She has so far failed three times, prompting her to push back Britain’s departure date to 31 October. The original exit day was at the end of March.
The impasse prompted the PM to reach out to Labour in a bid to break to break the deadlock, with the hope of striking a compromise deal in order to allow her to call off the EU elections.
But these efforts have been in vain – and pressure is growing on Mrs May to reveal a firm date for her departure, amid festering Tory resentment at her leadership.
Mrs May is due to meet with the chairman of 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs after a request from the group for “clarity” about her timetable for leaving.