BRITAIN will go to the polls next week for an election it wasn’t expected to participate in.

Despite the Prime Minister’s fervent efforts to leave the European Union on time, on March 29, her Brexit deal has been rejected three times by MPs and the Government hasn’t come up with an alternative.

The UK has since agreed an extension to strike a deal with the European Union by the end of October.

Therefore the European elections on Thursday, May 23 will take place, and voters will be presented with two new parties who have come to the fore and made their way on to the ballot paper: Change UK and Brexit Party.

The parties will join Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and UKIP.

The three current MEPs for the North-East are Labour’s Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen, as well as the independent Jonathan Arnott, who were all elected in 2014.

However, at least one new MEP will be elected after Jonathan Arnott MEP, who resigned from UKIP in January 2018 and currently sits as an independent, won’t be standing for re-election.

In order to elect MEPs, Britain is divided up into 12 regional constituencies, which elect from three to 10 MEPs – the North-East has three elected members.

The region comprises the ceremonial counties of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and parts of North Yorkshire.

Unlike the usual first-past-the-post system, the voting format for European elections is proportional. Parties select a list of candidates for each region, and voters just choose a party.

When the votes are counted, the party with the most votes takes the first seat. To allocate the second and subsequent seats, the original vote totals are divided by the number of seats parties have gained, plus one.

At the last election in 2014, UKIP were top nationally with 27.4 per cent of the vote, ahead of Labour on 25.4 per cent and the Conservatives on 23.9 per cent.

Hexham-based Penny Hawley has been chosen as a candidate for the newly formed Change UK – the independent group in the European elections next week.

Voting day takes place on Thursday, May 23 and polls are open from 7am to 10pm. Results will be declared after 10pm on Sunday, May 26.