May 18, 2014 11:37 am

Ukip eyes big gains in European elections

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Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage at the European Parliament.©AFP

Ukip leader Nigel Farage

Up to one in three voters are expected to back Ukip in this week’s European elections in what would mark a historic moment for the anti-Brussels party.

All voters will have the chance to vote for their regional European Parliament member on the same day as the local elections.

In the last set of European polls in 2009, the UK Independence party came second with 16.5 per cent of the vote, more than 10 percentage points behind the Tories.

If the party leapfrogs the Conservatives David Cameron, who is facing a political insurgency from the right, will face a dilemma.

The Tory prime minister has already shifted his stance – on immigration, the EU and welfare – in an attempt to fend off the rise of Ukip.

But Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, will seek to press home his advantage when the results come in next weekend by calling on Mr Cameron to give the public a vote on leaving the EU.

Mr Farage wants an EU referendum as soon as possible, whereas Mr Cameron wants to offer it in 2017.

The leaders of the three main parties will face internal pressures if they perform badly given there is only a year until the general election.

The Lib Dems, which has 12 European Parliament members, are projected to lose the majority of their Brussels seats if polls are accurate – reopening fissures within the party.

Labour, meanwhile, needs a strong result to soothe recent jitters after the Tories came level in national opinion polls.

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