Britain at Crossroads: the Post-Election Scenarios

The most likely outcome will be a Johnson victory with a reasonable overall majority over all other parties, writes Valdai Club expert Sir Malcolm Rifkind. However, to achieve that he has to win a significant number of seats from the Labour Party to make up for the seats he is likely to lose to the Nationalists in Scotland and to the pro-EU Liberal Democrats in the South and South-West of England.

The General Election in the United Kingdom will be one of the most important that has been held since 1945.

Firstly, on 12th December the British public will decide whether Boris Johnson will remain as Prime Minister; an office he has held only since August of this year.

Alternatively, Britain and the wider world will know whether the Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has become Prime Minister of the most hard left government the UK would ever have experienced. Such an outcome would have serious consequences for the UK’s relationship with the US; for the future of NATO and Britain’s nuclear deterrent; and for the whole course of Britain’s foreign and domestic policy.

But that, of course, is not all. The General Election will also decide whether, after three agonising years, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union after having been a member of it for 43 years.

Brexit Fatigue and the Early Elections in the UK
Lyudmila Babynina
In late October, the British Parliament supported the holding of early elections, scheduled for December 12. Observers agree that these elections will determine the fate of Brexit, which has recently been rescheduled again, to January 31 this time. The election agenda, the alignment of forces and options for the development of events are discussed by Lyudmila Babynina, Head of the Centre for Political Integration Studies at the RAS Institute of Europe.
Expert Opinions

 If Johnson and the Conservatives win, the UK will leave the EU within 1 or 2 months with the deal that the Prime Minister has already negotiated with the EU. If Corbyn and the Labour Part win, they are pledged to seek to negotiate a new deal keeping Britain in a Customs Union with the EU and with a closer relationship with the Single Market like Norway and Switzerland. They are also committed to putting any such deal to the British people in a new referendum which would also offer the option of the UK remaining in the EU.

I hesitate to try and predict the outcome of the General Election. It has been said in Britain that the future is not what it used to be!

However, all the opinion polls are, at present, giving Johnson and the Conservatives a large lead over Labour and all other parties. That looks good but the same was true at this stage in the last British election in 2017 which ended up with Theresa May’s Government losing its majority in the House of Commons and becoming a minority government.

That is much less likely on this occasion. Johnson is a much better campaigner than Theresa May ever was. Although he is deeply disliked and distrusted by many people he also is able, through the force of his personality and as the champion of Brexit, to attract many votes from people who would not normally vote Conservative. He demonstrated this when he won two terms as Mayor of London, a city that usually votes Labour.

He also has the unexpected advantage that he no longer has to ask for a mandate to allow him to take Britain out of the EU without any deal or transition period that would ease the problems of British industry and manufacturers who will lose the benefits of open borders for exports and imports. The deal he secured has the support of EU leaders and has already been endorsed, in principle, by a majority of the House of Commons though the detail still has to be scrutinised.

The most likely outcome will be a Johnson victory with a reasonable overall majority over all other parties. However, to achieve that he has to win a significant number of seats from the Labour Party to make up for the seats he is likely to lose to the Nationalists in Scotland and to the pro-EU Liberal Democrats in the South and South-West of England.

If the Conservatives are denied an overall majority we would be back where we are now and the agony would continue. The only alternatives then left to Johnson would be to reach a compromise with the Opposition and agree a Customs Union with the EU or have a second referendum. That would allow the British people who made the original decision to leave the EU by 52% to 48%, to decide whether that was still their preferred outcome.
Whatever happens, British democracy will demonstrate its strength and resilience. It will be the people or Parliament who will decide the country’s future and not a Prime Minister who has not won their support.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.