Brexit trailblazer Nigel Farage takes polling lead after party launch

New platform for the maverick politician who symbolises drive to leave the EU

FILE PHOTO: Nigel Farage attends the launch of the newly created 'Brexit Party' campaign for the European elections, in Coventry, Britain April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo
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Britain’s newly-formed Brexit Party is leading other parties ahead of the European election, according to an opinion poll released Wednesday that heaped new pressure on efforts to resolve the deadlock over leaving the EU.

The party, headed by ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, claimed 27 per cent of respondents' support in a YouGov poll, followed by Labour on 22 per cent and Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives in third place on 15 percent.

The Brexit Party was trailing Britain's two mainstream parties in a similar YouGov poll released last week, but was boosted following the launch of its EU election campaign on Friday. The vote will take place on May 23 if the UK has not left the EU before that date.

“We want to be an independent, self-governing nation, making its own laws, controlling its own borders and being proud of who we are as a people,” said Mr Farage.

Many in the European parliament see Mr Farage as a disruptive influence, making firebrand speeches which depart from topics being debated. However, with anti-EU parties polling well across Italy, Hungary and Poland, he could have like-minded company

In February the European Council of Foreign Relations warned May’s election could "see a group of nationalist anti-European political parties that advocate a return to a 'Europe of the nations' win a controlling share of seats,” finding up to 33 per cent of MEP seats could be filled by anti-EU parties from both the right and left. This would represent a 10 percentage point increase from the current make-up of the European Parliament.

A perhaps expected victim of the Brexit Party’s polling success is Mr Farage’s former party, UKIP, which saw its support halve from 14 to seven per cent, according to the survey. Mr Farage recently disavowed the party over its lurch towards more far-right policies.

On Tuesday, the UK’s Electoral Commission approved the group of breakaway former Conservative and Labour MPs to run in the elections under the party name Change UK. The party is a vocal supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, which is pushing for a second EU referendum. It polled just six per cent.