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Kent candidates prepare as European elections will go ahead

By Paul Francis

Voters will be going to the polls to elect MEPs later this month after the government admitted talks with Labour about how to leave the EU are unlikely to reach an agreement in time.

David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, has said the effort to come up with a Brexit deal is unlikely to be completed in time before polling day on May 25.

He said "regrettably" it was "not going to be possible to finish that process" before the date the UK legally has to take part.

David Lidington
David Lidington

It comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed he will visit Medway this week to launch his party's manifesto.

Most parties contesting the election have already drawn up candidates lists for the South East region, which incorporates Kent and Medway.

Mr Lidington conceded: "We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted… 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."

The ballot will - assuming a deal is struck before October 31 - leave MEPs elected serving just a few months.

Opinion polls suggest the new Brexit party founded by former Ukip leader Nigel Farage is poised to win the election.

Farage is the number one candidate in the South East for his party.

Among the candidates standing is Gavin Esler, the broadcaster and Chancellor of the University of Kent.

He is running as the number one candidate for the newly-established Change UK Party but is doing so for the London region.

Ann Widdecombe will be talking to audiences in Kent (9819272)
Ann Widdecombe will be talking to audiences in Kent (9819272)

The election will see the return of former Maidstone and Weald MP Anne Widdecombe, who is standing for the Brexit Party in the South West region.

Meanwhile, a former Conservative MEP from Kent has defected to the Change UK party.

Richard Ashworth was suspended by the Conservative group in Brussels for failing to be supportive of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Two Kent Conservative councillors are among candidates nominated for the South East region: Swale county councillor Mike Whiting and Sevenoaks councillor Anna Firth.

Slug: Ashworth Details: Pix of Richard Ashworth, Kent Conservative Euro MEP Category: Politics Contributed pix, no copyright issues, available for general use. Catherine Bray. Assistant to Richard Ashworth MEP. +32 228 47309 KM GROUP USE ONLY Supplied by: Catherine Bray. +32 228 47309 (9821174)
Slug: Ashworth Details: Pix of Richard Ashworth, Kent Conservative Euro MEP Category: Politics Contributed pix, no copyright issues, available for general use. Catherine Bray. Assistant to Richard Ashworth MEP. +32 228 47309 KM GROUP USE ONLY Supplied by: Catherine Bray. +32 228 47309 (9821174)

The Liberal Democrats are fielding the long-standing MEP Catherine Bearder as its number one candidate with the Faversham county councillor Anthony Hook as its second of 10.

The Conservatives face a challenging election with many disillusioned supporters publicly saying they will not help the campaign.

Cranbrook county councillor Sean Holden has written to MP Helen Grant to say he will not lift a finger to help the party and says hundreds of others share his view.

“We should not be taking part. The party should boycott the Euro ballot for what is, in any case, a charade of a parliament. There is no foreseeable outcome in it for our party except a disastrous defeat.”

Councils face having to spend thousands of pounds on planning for and organising elections to the European Parliament.

The costs to Kent councils in the last election in 2014 exceeded £2m, according to official figures and the bill may well be higher as some authorities who were holding other elections on the same day five years ago will not be doing so next month.

The UK is divided into 12 regions, each represented by between three and 10 MEPs depending on population size, ending with a total of 73.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

For more election news, click here.

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