Theresa May left red-faced as deputy PM admits UK will take part in European Parliament elections
The UK will take part in the European Parliament elections later this month, the Government has admitted.
De-facto deputy prime minister David Lidington said the Commons would not have time to ratify Brexit legislation before the vote on 23 May.
And he said Brexit should be “done and dusted” by the parliamentary summer holidays - which could mean waiting for a number of months.
It comes amid continued deadlock in Parliament over the way forward, with compromise talks between the Conservatives and Labour failing to reach a breakthrough.
The country has been gearing up to elect new MEPs, but Theresa May had hoped Britain could leave the EU before polling day.
However Mr Lidington said: "Given how little time there is, it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process [of securing a parliamentary majority for a deal] before the date that's legally due for the European parliamentary elections."
"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 First Secretary of State said MEPs elected later this month would "ideally" never have to take their seats in the parliament, as the session does not start until July.
And he added: "We would like to be in a situation… certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess."
Mrs May last month secured a Brexit extension up to 31 October after she failed to get her deal through the Commons ahead of the previous deadlines of 12 April and, before that, 31 March.
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans, who is standing in the elections, said: "The British government has chosen to wait until the deadline to register to vote to confirm that the European election will be going ahead.
"This is a deeply cynical move, which may well leave thousands of people disenfranchised because they didn’t know there was an election happening."