As agreement is reached with the EU, Theresa May’s Brexit deal will come before parliament. In this contribution, Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Forum Post-Doctoral Fellow at LSE, breaks down the parliamentary arithmetic and assesses her options.
My Kingdom for a Deal
Theresa May has, at long last, reached agreement with the EU on the terms of Britain’s impending withdrawal from the Union on 29 March 2019. The deal is politically controversial and seems to have pleased no one, especially the hardline Brexiters. This is because it could see the UK remain within a single customs territory with the EU, precluding the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland would also remain in key elements of the single market for goods, for the same reason. This ‘backstop’ has proven to be the most contentious element of the Withdrawal Agreement, dragging out negotiations which were almost 80 percent complete at the beginning of 2018.
Two years on from the Brexit vote, the benefits of a second referendum are being hotly debated. In this post, UCL’s Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell identify seven questions that should be considered before parliament decides whether a second Brexit referendum will take place.
Last week a Sky poll suggested that 50% of the public would favour a three-way referendum on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This follows calls from key figures including Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, and Tony Blair, as well as a campaign launched by The Independent for the public to be allowed a vote on the final deal. Number 10 has categorically rejected these calls, stating that there will be no further referendum on Brexit ‘in any circumstances’. Nonetheless, talk of a second referendum is likely to continue. Whether you are a supporter or an opponent of that proposal, there are some big important questions about the practicalities of such a referendum that need to be explored. This post sets out some of the most crucial questions. In further posts over the coming weeks, we will begin to explore some of the answers.
Richard Bellamy discusses the circumstances that would allow for a second referendum to take place. Beyond the difficulties to overcome a potential “betrayal” effect, the design of this new vote would be highly controversial and it does not seem likely that Justine Greening’s system of first and second preferences would make it more legitimate in the eyes of the electorate and politicians.
Theresa May has announced there will be no second Brexit referendum under any circumstances, prompting the wits of social media to recall her similar assurances regarding a snap election and declare that naturally there will now be one. Trying to divine what the Prime Minister really believes or wants seems a thankless task. However, a reasonable hypothesis is that she considers such a declaration as necessary to stem accusations of betrayal by the hard Brexit wing of her party, especially given some soft Brexiters and even a few Remainers also believe the popular vote for Brexit has to be honoured, and to buttress her authority to negotiate an agreement with the EU on the basis of proposals likely to win Parliamentary support. If so, two questions arise: first, does the accusation of ‘betrayal’ in the event of a second referendum have any foundation at all and second, and probably more importantly, under what political circumstances might she (or any immediate successor) be pushed into granting a second referendum?
The so-called swing voters are often portrayed as being dissatisfied and disengaged from politics. Germ Janmaat draws from the conclusions of a research paper on changing preferences on Brexit to challenge that view and shows that the voters that changed their mind on Brexit express a high interest in politics and believe they are better informed than average.
Much research has already been done on the predictors of the view that Britain should leave the European Union. We thus know that older people, males, whites, and the less well educated are more inclined to vote for Brexit than their counterparts. We also know that those with socially conservative values and opinions on issues such as immigration, raising of children, and law and order are much more likely to prefer Leave over Remain. It is further common knowledge that opinions on UK’s membership of the EU are not exactly static: While 53.8 per cent of the British public wanted the UK to leave the EU in June 2011, this percentage declined to 37.0 in May 2015 before it rose again to more than 50 in 2016.
We do not know, however, who changed their view on Britain’s membership of the EU and how they changed it. Was it primarily the indifferent and disengaged voters who started leaning more towards leave from a position of indecisiveness? Or was it a feature of well-informed and involved citizens who made a radical switch from backing Remain to supporting Leave? Knowing this will help us in making meaningful predictions about future trends in opinions about Brexit. If the changers were mainly engaged voters closely following the news, one could imagine that support for Leave starts to decline if the economy splutters and Brexit is increasingly blamed for this in the public debate. In contrast, if volatility is a feature of the disengaged, it might be more difficult to predict future developments.
The Leave and Remain campaigns defined British ‘Greatness’ in very different ways. The referendum reflects more than attitudes toward EU membership — it marks a new understanding of Britain’s role in the world, as Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Postdoctoral Fellow at the LSE, argues in this piece. The end of the postwar consensus of liberal internationalism has important implications and needs to be taken seriously.
The ‘Great’ in Great Britain is a geographical term identifying it as the larger of the two Britains – the other being Brittany in France, once known as Britannia minor. But this is not the way many Brits interpret the term. For greatness has also become a political category, referring not to British territory but to its venerable national attributes and its reputation on the international stage. What, we are often asked, makes Britain ‘great’? Continue reading