WITH a Brexit deal still a vague ambition rather than political reality, the Government has conceded that the UK will have to hold European Parliamentary elections on May 23.

Theresa May had hoped to push through a deal ahead of the polling date, but even if that was to happen, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has conceded the UK would still be legally obliged to hold an EU vote.

If the Conservative and Labour parties thought the local elections were traumatic, they had better prepare for an even more tortuous time.

The Conservatives lost more than 1,000 councillors last week, and Labour also saw its share of the vote fall, even though there were constituencies where candidates from the two leading parties only had one or two rivals.

Come the European elections, the competition will be much fiercer. As well as facing candidates from the resurgent Liberal Democrats and buoyant Green Party, prospective European Parliamentarians from the Tories and Labour will have to fend off rivals standing for Change UK and the Brexit Party.

Perhaps Mrs May will hold the Tories together sufficiently to avoid an anticipated meltdown? Maybe Jeremy Corbyn will chart a course that enables Labour to recover lost ground in its heartlands?

As things stand, however, neither leader will be looking ahead to May 23 with a sense of anticipation. The British political system is in a state of flux – and there is every chance it is about to become even more unstable.