THERESA May is still holding out hope that the UK will not have to take part in May 23 European elections despite the fact that the chances of her getting a Brexit deal through Parliament seem as unlikely as ever.

With less than a month to go to the £100 million poll and with other main parties all gearing up for it, Tory HQ once again suggested it was making no preparations.

The admission came as Labour urged the Prime Minister and her government to “get serious” about the cross-party talks on Brexit, which continue to be deadlocked.

During Commons exchanges, David Lidington, the PM’s de facto deputy, was asked by his Conservative colleague Tom Pursglove if it would be best for the Government to "keep its promises" and call off the "farcical" EU elections.

The Cabinet Office Minister replied: "It would indeed be the Government's hope that even now we could agree and ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and give effect to it that would make it possible for these elections not to take place.

"But the only way to stop these elections taking place is to bring into effect the Withdrawal Agreement or to pass primary legislation through Parliament dis-applying our international obligations," he said.

Downing St has blown hot and cold over when it might bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill with some suggestions it could be next week; Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom is due to make a business statement on Thursday. Failure to get the legislation through would plunge the Government into an even deeper crisis.

Later, a Tory spokesman, asked how the Conservative Party’s preparations were progressing for the Euro poll, said: “Look, you’ve seen a number of other political parties launch their campaigns; we have not done so.”

Asked if the Conservatives would have a campaign launch at all, he replied: “If we have one, we will let you know about it. There are no plans. The PM’s overall view is it would be better politically, nationally and, in whichever terms you wish to describe it, not to take part in the European elections.”

Asked again if there would be a Tory campaign launch and manifesto, the spokesman said, after a long pause: “Those kind of things I’m sure will be set out in the usual and familiar way.”

During PMQs, Emily Thornberry for Labour – standing in for Jeremy Corbyn, who, like Mrs May was attending the Lyra McKee funeral in Belfast – took UK ministers to task over the cross-party talks on Brexit.

"If the Government is serious about putting the country first, the whole of our country, will the Minister for the Cabinet Office accept that means finally getting serious about the cross-party negotiations and putting the option of a customs union on the table?"

Mr Lidington replied by stressing how the substance and tone of the cross-party conversations had been constructive.

“There is a genuine attempt to try to find a way through but I'm not going to hide the fact that this is very difficult because if it's going to work it'll mean both parties needing to make compromises and us ending up with a solution that unlike any other so far proposed will get a majority in the House."

One Cabinet colleague has told The Herald that the talks are doomed because Mr Corbyn will judge that it is not in his party’s political interests to do a deal.

Elsewhere, Ann Widdecombe, the former Shadow Home Secretary, joined Nigel Farage for a photocall outside the European Commission's head office in the UK to mark her defection from the Conservatives to his Brexit Party.

Welcoming her to the party, its leader said: "She's doing a brave thing and she's doing the right thing, and she's doing it for the most important principle in terms of what we are as a country, certainly in our lifetimes and probably for centuries in many ways.

"This is about how the world views us. Are we a democracy? Do we have a bond of trust between the people and parliament? So, this really matters," added the MEP.

Ms Widdecombe, 71, who has been expelled from the Conservative Party, said: "We will certainly be huge winners in the Euro elections. We will grow from there if Parliament doesn't listen, doesn't deliver; we will then grow."