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Euro elections 'show voters are not being fooled', pro-Brexit campaigners say

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Politicians have given a clear message by West Norfolk's voters after a majority backed pro-Brexit parties at the European elections, anti-EU campaigners claimed today.

The big winner was the new Brexit Party, which took more than 47 per cent of the borough's vote on its way to winning three seats for the East of England region.

But there were also significant gains for the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, as the Conservatives and Labour lost out heavily.

A hand casting a vote in a black ballot box for an election in the European Union.. (9354791)
A hand casting a vote in a black ballot box for an election in the European Union.. (9354791)

The Brexit Party, headed by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, had been widely expected to do well and its performance in West Norfolk followed the national pattern.

More than 17,000 voters backed them, nearly three and a half times as many as their nearest opponents.

And, with more than 1,700 people still voting for UKIP, it meant that nearly 52 per cent of voters backed clearly pro-Brexit candidates.

Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice, who is one of their three new MEPs for this area, said the result represented more than simply a protest vote.

He wrote on social media: "This is not a high point for The Brexit Party — we have only just begun."

Meanwhile, Michael Stone, a UKIP official from Lynn, said ministers now knew they had to deliver on the result on the 2016 referendum.

He said: "Brexit is in a mess because it has been engineered that way. This result shows the people are not being fooled anymore."

But Liberal Democrat activists were also claiming a significant step forward for their pro-Remain cause after they won two of the available East of England seats.

Although they were a distant second in West Norfolk, with just under 14 per cent of the vote, that was still more than four times the vote share they recorded five years ago.

West Norfolk branch chairman Rob Colwell said: "Our clear, honest, unambiguous message has won us our best ever European election result. We have shown ourselves to be the strongest Remain force in British politics.

"With a Tory leadership contest increasing the risk of a dangerous “No Deal” Brexit, a final say on Brexit becomes even more important.”

Their newly-elected borough councillor, Josie Ratcliffe, added: "The newly-elected Lib Dem MEPs Barbara Gibson and Lucy Nethsingha are inspiring leaders who will present a positive image of the UK to our European neighbours."

The Green Party also won its first seat in the region and increased its share of the West Norfolk vote to more than 10 per cent.

Borough councillor Michael de Whalley said: "It's a very good result. We've made significant advances. We couldn't ask for better than that."

The biggest losers of the night were the Conservatives, who lost two of the three seats they held from the 2014 election and were pushed into third place in West Norfolk, with just 12 per cent of the vote.

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham described the results as "grim."

And his South West Norfolk counterpart Liz Truss said: "These terrible election results are not a surprise.

"It's because of the failure to leave the EU when we said we would. We must leave by 31st October deal or no deal."

It was also a bad night for Labour, who lost their one seat for the region and saw their share of the vote here more than halved as they came fifth.

Recently elected borough councillor Jo Rust said she agreed with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry that the party needed to be clearer on its Brexit position.

She said: "I understand the national party has been trying to play the long game to keep as many people on board as possible but all it has done is leave people confused.

"We won't be able to please everybody but we have to come out and make a decision."

Meanwhile, West Norfolk Council officials have confirmed some voters were turned away from polling stations on Thursday because of issues over their eligibility.

Many voters nationally took to social media to voice their frustrations over the issue under the DeniedMyVote hashtag and there have been calls for an independent inquiry.

A borough council spokesman said more than 5,000 people who could vote in another member state were contacted in April to give them the chance to complete the paperwork required to change their registration to enable them to vote in the elections.

He added that “approximately nine” voters were unable to vote because of the issue.

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