This article was written prior to the 2019 general election, which resulted in Boris Johnson’s Conservatives winning an outright majority in the Commons. Britain officially left the EU on 31 January 2020.
By Jonas Blum ’22
Brexit has been a mess. From the poorly-phrased referendum to the resignation of the Prime Minister who called for it, then three years of deliberation and constantly shifting leave-dates, then another premier resignation, and now a general election, it wouldn’t be crazy to have lost track. But now that the United States is a matter of contention for this election and that Brexit is still on the table, let’s run through the candidates.
The Conservatives struck off their campaign with a Brexit-focus. “We want to, and we are going to, deliver on the mandate of the people, which is to take the UK out of the EU,” shouts Prime Minister Boris Johnson at one of the final Prime Minister’s Questions. This is their position: the UK voted to leave in 2016 and the Conservative Party, with a majority in the Commons, will take them out as soon as possible. They lead the polls by 8 points, though without a majority.
Labour is stuck in the middle of this Brexit crisis. They simultaneously hold the position that they want to honor a vote of the people but believe it should not be the original referendum, but a better written new referendum. Unlike the Tories, they have not solely been campaigning on Brexit. In late November, they released an expose on Boris Johnson’s plan to sell out the National Health Service, their public healthcare system, to American insurance companies. Conservative HQ, of course, refuted this and argued it was a Nixon-like dirty trick. They argue that dealing with the US will be a loss and that the only way to protect the UK’s interests is to vote Labour at the polls. They currently are behind the Conservatives at the polls, preventing a working majority.
The Liberal Democrats have firmly taken a remain position. They believe the referendum was flawed and that the UK is not morally* obligated to follow it because they are a representative democracy. They refuse to form a coalition with either of the big two parties and are currently polling a distant third. Their existence may hurt Labour, preventing either party from securing No. 10.
Quickly running through the other major parties: The Scottish National Party is looking to get around 12 seats and win most, if not all, of Scotland. They are remainers but would form a coalition with Labour in exchange for another chance to leave the United Kingdom. The Brexit Party, formed by the former members of the UK Independence Party, are vehemently pro-Brexit and do not look to win any seats. Their members were known for spreading false information about Brexit during the 2016 referendum. The far-right Democratic Unionist Party looks to again win Northern Ireland, possibly helping the Conservatives.
To summarize: if an exit from the EU is what is wanted, then the Tories will win. But, if one wishes to stay, there is a Labour/LibDem split, which may only be resolved with another election.
We’ll see what happens on the 12th.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2019-20 Print Edition, the full version can be viewed here