Can the Tories Get Brexit Done?

On December 12, early parliamentary elections will be held in the UK.

Since the start of the campaign, political analysts and opinion polling agencies have predicted a landslide victory for the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, they all made reservations, given the unfulfilled forecasts of the election results in 2015 and 2017. The problem was that the polls were conducted throughout the country (that is, represented the “average body temperature in the hospital”), and not for each constituency, which would be more correct, if we take into account the majoritarian electoral system in Britain.

During the election campaign, the Conservative Party was ahead of its main opponent – the Labour Party – by about 10 percentage points. It should be noted that voters were more inclined towards tactical voting – for the two leading parties that have real chances to win, moving away from the support of small parties that held unequivocal Brexit positions (from the Brexit party of Nigel Farage – to the Tories, and from Liberal Democratic Party – to the Labour Party). Accordingly, the ratings of small parties fell, and that of the main parties increased, although the gap between them only slightly decreased in favour of the Labour Party.

It should be added that in November the situation in health care gradually caught up to Brexit in importance for the electorate (54:57), but half of the respondents intended to vote depending on their attitude to Brexit, and a third opined that they would vote according to their position on the health care problem. The personal ratings of the leaders of all parties remained in the negative zone, although Johnson was ahead of Corbyn (33:22); the Conservative Party is ahead of the Labour Party in almost all respects. Nevertheless, the volatility of voters cannot be discounted: a quarter of those polled said that they could change their political preferences at the last moment.

So what about Brexit?

The position of Labour on Brexit is to hold talks with Brussels again, and submit the new agreement to a second referendum, including two answers in the ballot: accept the new agreement or remain in the EU.    Many in Britain believe that the decision to withdraw from the EU was wrong and that the government is not doing well on this issue, but fatigue from the protracted uncertainty has clearly manifested itself.

It is not surprising that Johnson’s slogan “Get Brexit Done!” resonated with voters. The question is only with what advantage the Tories will triumph over the Labour Party.

During the week before December 10, YouGov, a polling agency, conducted a survey especially for constituencies. The results showed that the Tories, with 43% of the vote, will be able to win 339 seats in parliament, while the Labour Party, with 34% of the votes, will get 231 seats. The Liberal Democrats got 12%, yielding 15 seats, and the SNP, with 3%, would get 41 seats. It should be noted that the working majority is approximately 320 seats (the speaker and his deputies do not vote, and the Sinn Fein party takes part in the elections, but does not take part in the work of parliament). 

If the Tory advantage is small, then we can expect that it will be enough at first to adopt the EU Withdrawal Act with the incorporated Agreement and to leave the EU on January 31, 2020.

However, the fact is that negotiations between London and Brussels about future relations will follow, and they will inevitably become difficult and long, although Johnson promises that they will be light and short. He hopes to complete them by the end of the transition period – by 2021. However, British experts and politicians have warned that trade negotiations could go on for a decade. Of course, Johnson states that on December 31, 2020, the United Kingdom will withdraw from negotiations with the EU regarding future relations no matter how they end (that is, the “no deal” Brexit will be back on the agenda). In this case, it is possible that some conservative deputies may join the ranks of the “rebels,” denying support to their leader. Then the parliament will insist on postponing the completion of negotiations on future relations. In such a scenario, the government would yet again face a political crisis.

If the Tory advantage is solid – 30-50 places, then Britain will leave the EU on January 31, 2020, and, of course, London will threaten Brussels with another no deal Brexit, trying to force the EU to make concessions.

If after the elections a “suspended parliament” is formed, the Conservative Party will not join the coalition or enter into a confidence-and-supply agreement, since Farage’s party will not have a significant representation in the parliament, and DUP will not support the Johnson deal. Accordingly, even if Johnson remains at the head of the minority government, he will have to go for a second referendum, giving the country a choice: his deal or Britain’s EU membership.

Under the “suspended parliament”, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has ruled out a formal coalition with the Labour Party, but it may support the minority Labour Government if it receives consent for a second referendum on Scottish independence. The Labour Party does not intend to conclude coalition agreements with other parties. So, again negotiations with the EU, a second referendum, and a second referendum on the independence of Scotland.

The British, according to Ivan Rogers, former permanent representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, will feel the burden of “Brexiternity”, which will turn into a “Groundhog Day.” Will the Brexit then turn against the Brexiteers themselves?

Elections Will Not Bring Clarity About Brexit
Ulrike Reisner
From today’s point of view, the result of the general elections, in one way or another, is for the British to withdraw from the EU. Clarity could only be achieved by a new referendum or by a withdrawal of the resignation request before January 31, 2020.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.