June 5, 2019
By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) – Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party could win its first seat in Westminster when the eastern English city of Peterborough goes to the polls on Thursday to elect a new member of parliament.
The Brexit Party, launched only in April, swept to victory in the United Kingdom’s European Parliament election last month, riding a wave of anger over Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit on time.
Almost three years since Britain voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union, lawmakers remain at loggerheads over how, when or even whether to leave the EU. May is quitting after failing to get her Brexit deal approved and the prospect of a “no-deal” exit has become central to the battle in her ruling Conservative Party to replace her.
Farage played a leading role in the 2016 campaign to leave the EU. Victory for his Brexit Party in Peterborough, which supported Brexit by 61% to 39%, would increase the pressure on May’s successor to pursue a cleaner break with the EU.
Leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has said the Conservatives face “political extinction” at the next national election if Britain does not leave the EU by the current deadline of Oct. 31.
“Three years ago parliament made us a promise, they gave us the opportunity to choose our future in or outside of Europe. They said they would get the job done but the job is not done and the trust is broken,” Peterborough’s Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene, a local entrepreneur, said in a campaign video.
“Peterborough is our opportunity to take that message back to Westminster to get that job done.”
The Brexit Party is the bookmakers’ favorite to win.
The vote was triggered when opposition Labour lawmaker Fiona Onasanya became the first member of parliament to lose her seat in a recall petition, after she was jailed for lying about a speeding offence.
It is expected to be a close race – Labour won the seat from the Conservatives in 2017’s general election with a majority of just 607 votes.
Both Britain’s main two parties saw their support slump at the EU elections as voters frustrated at the Brexit deadlock opted for either strongly pro-EU parties or those, such as the Brexit Party, that favor leaving without a deal.
The result is expected between 0200 GMT and 0400 GMT on Friday.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Frances Kerry)