DAVID Mundell has broken ranks with Theresa May and suggested it is now “inevitable” that voters will take part in the May 23 European elections.

The implication from the Scottish Secretary’s remarks is that the Brexit talks between the Conservatives and Labour, which resume today for their fifth week, will remain deadlocked for another month or so; which to many will mean they will fail altogether.

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Mr Mundell, speaking to The Herald on Sunday, when asked about the Euro poll, said: “It's inevitable now. We've run out of time.”

Thus far, No 10 and Tory HQ have been adamant there is still a chance to seal a new Brexit deal with Labour and so avoid millions of Britons having to go to the polls next month, which will cost the taxpayer more than £100 million.

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has said, from the UK’s perspective, the European parliamentary elections “feel like a pointless exercise” and the only way to avoid them was to seal a deal by May 22.

When asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Mr Mundell’s assertion, her spokesman said: “Look, as I have been saying over the course of the past week, every day we don’t pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill[WAB] does make participation in the European elections more likely. But we are continuing to work with the Opposition to try to find an agreed way through this and there are talks taking place with the Opposition this afternoon.”

Asked about the implication of the Scottish Secretary’s remarks – that the cross-party talks will not produce a deal before May 23 – the spokesman replied: “I’ve covered it in the answer I gave.”

The Government has to pass WAB to ratify any deal but is wary about introducing it if it feels MPs will reject it; Mrs May’s proposed plan has already been knocked back three times. One ministerial source has told The Herald that if her legislation were to be rejected, then she would have to resign.

The PM’s spokesman said: “We would look to introduce it[WAB] as soon as possible but, obviously, what is necessary is to believe you have a realistic prospect of securing the safe passage of that bill.”

Asked how long this process could go on for, he stressed how he had avoided putting a specific date on it and repeated the same point but also noted how if the talks failed, then Mrs May had offered the prospect of a limited number of indicative votes on alternative options; all of which have been previously rejected by MPs.

An opinion poll over the weekend showed Tory support in the forthcoming Euro poll had collapsed to just 14 points while Labour and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party were neck and neck on 28 points.

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Senior Conservative sources have refused to comment when asked when the Tory campaign launch will be and what will be in the manifesto.

Asked if he expected the election would be difficult for his party, Mr Mundell replied: "All the evidence would suggest that it is going to be a challenge but we've had challenges before."

The Tories are also set to take a major hit this Thursday when some 8,000 seats are being contested in the English local elections. Analysts have estimated the Conservatives could lose 800 seats, posting their worst performance since 1995 during John Major’s troubled administration.

Coincidentally, Mrs May is due in Scotland on Friday to give a keynote speech at the Scottish Conservative Party conference. Any election drubbing south of the border will be an uncomfortable backdrop to her set-piece address.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, will re-emerge from her six-month maternity leave at the party gathering and is expected to give her own keynote speech.

At Westminster, there appears to be a growing inevitability that the cross-party talks are going nowhere. Today, among those engaging in discussions will be David Lidington, the PM’s de facto deputy, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, as well as Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, and their Labour shadows John McDonnell and Sir Keir Starmer.

Asked how the talks were going, the PM’s spokesman described them as “serious” but there were difficulties. “There is a meeting scheduled today, there were some working group discussions last week, so let’s see how today progresses.”