Britain and Netherlands kick off EU elections votes

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Britain and the Netherlands head to the polls on Thursday, kicking off four days of elections to the EU parliament.

Britain and the Netherlands head to the polls on Thursday, kicking off four days of elections to the EU parliament that will guide Brussels policy for the next five years.

Other EU nations will hold their votes between Friday and Sunday, with results announced on Sunday evening once all EU nations have voted.

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Britons vote amid Brexit turmoil

A divided Britain votes this Thursday, nearly three years after the country voted to leave the European Union.

The election, which Britain did not expect to have to take part in, is a result of the deadlock over the way forward on Brexit after Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal with Brussels was rejected three times by lawmakers.

Britons are due to elect 73 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) but the government said they would not take up their seats if the country leaves the EU by the end of June.

Britain was due to leave the EU almost two months ago, but having delayed its exit date twice and with parliament still deadlocked, it remains unclear how, when or even if it will go ahead with the divorce. It is currently due to leave by October 31.

Polling stations will be open from 07:00 until 22:00 BST (8:00 -23:00 CEST).

Opinion polls show strongly pro-Brexit and pro-EU parties are set to gain votes at the expense of May’s governing Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party which have struggled to define their positions on the issue.

READ: EU polls: Populism surge as Brexit Party forecast to take most seats in European Parliament

According to data from pollsters YouGov, only one in five of those who voted Conservative at the last national election in 2017 are planning to vote for the party on Thursday, with 62% instead planning to back Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

In turn, Labour is mainly losing voters to remain-supporting parties.

The Brexit Party, launched last month to take on the political leaders it says have betrayed the vote to leave, is expected to come out on top. A YouGov poll on Wednesday put support for the party, which is campaigning for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, at 37%. May’s Conservatives were in fifth place on just 7%.

With the ‘remain’ vote splintered between several strongly pro-EU parties, including the Liberal Democrats, Change UK and the Green Party, they are expected to win fewer seats.

The result is likely to pile further pressure on May to make way for a new leader as soon as possible. Earlier this month, the Conservatives endured a drubbing in local elections.

READ: Commons leader quits as pressure grows on UK PM Theresa May to resign over Brexit woes

Netherlands nationalists set to make huge gains

Polling stations opened as early as 5:15 CEST on Thursday in the Netherlands, which will have 26 MEPs in the European Parliament (29 after the UK's departure).

Most polling stations will be open until 21:00 CEST.

Thierry Baudet's Forum for Democracy, a nationalist party which won just 2% of the vote in a 2017 general election, is polling at 15% ahead of voting, neck and neck with the party of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

Baudet, who styled himself "the most important intellectual in the Netherlands" in a 2016 tweet, emphasizes "Dutch first" cultural and economic themes. He blames immigration for the decline of Christian, European civilization and wants the Netherlands to leave the European Union.

Baudet's party came in first in provincial elections in March, ahead of Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.

Baudet has drawn support largely from the Freedom party of his right-wing rival Geert Wilders, another Eurosceptic best known for his campaign against Islam. Wilders is polling near a decade low of 5%.

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