EU elections: Farage will win unless Labour backs remain

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will win the EU elections unless Labour can portray itself as the natural home for remain voters, Margaret Beckett has claimed.

Polling commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign suggested the former Ukip leader’s new party was on course for a five-point lead, with remain voters split between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party, the Green party and Change UK.

“These elections have proven to be rich hunting grounds for Nigel Farage’s brand of extreme rightwing politics before and may be again,” Beckett said. “But the message of this poll is loud and clear: it suggests that if anyone can stop Farage winning it is Labour – and only if we back [a] people’s vote.”

Beckett, a former foreign secretary, said that if Labour hedges its bets and backs “another form of Brexit, [then] Labour loses voters and Farage will storm to first place”.

The YouGov poll of 1,855 voters on Monday and Tuesday puts Farage’s Brexit party on 27%, followed by Labour on 22% and the Conservatives on 15%, though a high proportion of people said they did not know who they would vote for or that they would not vote.

The polling suggested Labour would lose votes to the Lib Dems if its manifesto for the European parliament elections supported going ahead with Brexit, even with different terms such as a customs union.

On Wednesday the Lib Dems announced their candidate list for the EU elections, due to take place on 23 May unless parliament can pass a withdrawal deal.

The party’s leader, Vince Cable, said: “We will fight these elections on a clear message: a Liberal Democrat vote is a vote to stop Brexit. From local communities to the EU institutions, Liberal Democrats are determined to give a voice to the millions of people who demand better than Brexit Britain.”

Cable said the campaign would be transformed if Labour came out in favour of remaining in the EU in a second referendum, although he doubted the party would.

“I find it difficult to see they could do that given that Jeremy Corbyn has said repeatedly he is there to deliver Brexit, but it certainly would change the nature of the argument,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.