Derbyshire Tories refuse to take part in European elections because of Brexit delay

Barry Lewis, leader of Tory-controlled Derbyshire County Council.
Barry Lewis, leader of Tory-controlled Derbyshire County Council.

Tories at Derbyshire County Council have declared they will not take part in the forthcoming European elections in protest over the fact Britain has not yet left the EU.

They have also said they will not support party colleagues standing as MEP candidates.

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Conservatives at the county council believe the election in May 'should not be happening' and will therefore withdraw their involvement in the campaign process - they are effectively going on strike.

Prime Minister Theresa May had wanted Britain to exit the EU before the May elections but a deadlock over her withdrawal deal means the official exit date has been delayed until after the polls.

Barry Lewis, who has led the Derbyshire authority since May 2017, said he had already informed party chairman Brandon Lewis of the decision, which followed overwhelming support from his colleagues.

Mr Lewis said: "This was not an easy decision to take and goes against every natural instinct we have as Conservatives to support our hardworking MEPs and candidates.

"However, we were promised, following the largest public mandate a UK Government has ever received that we would be out [of the EU] by March 29.

"The Prime Minister said we would be out by that date countless times, so did many others in Government, and yet here we are racing towards the end of April and facing an increased prospect of participating in a European election in May that should not be happening."

As Brexit has been delayed, the UK is obliged to elect 73 MEPs to the European Parliament. The MEPs will sit in Brussels until Britain leaves the EU on the newly extended date of October 31. Should the Withdrawal Agreement be ratified ahead of that date, the UK will leave before October 31.

Mr Lewis went on to express his outrage at the Brexit discussions taking place between the Conservatives and the Labour Party.

"Whether you voted to leave or remain, the vast majority of people recognise there is a democratic obligation to deliver what was promised and that Government should not abdicate their promise to deliver it," he added.

"I informed Brandon Lewis that inviting Jeremy Corbyn to the table in an attempt to pass a deal was in our view a serious mistake for the Prime Minister and, consequently, our party.

"Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, under him, deserve no credibility."