2020 General Election And The Brexit

Like it or not, this is the Brexit election. Theresa May tried to win a clear mandate for Brexit in 2017, but her efforts went awry as Jeremy Corbyn shifted the conversation onto other topics like public services. But two years on, it is beyond doubt what the key issue is facing voters.

The latest Issues Index from Ipsos MORI found Brexit remained firmly the top concern in the public's mind, with 65 per cent of those surveyed citing it as an issue. This year's election has come about due to Boris Johnson's failure to get his Brexit deal through Parliament. Whoever is returned as Prime Minister after December 12 will have to get cracking with their Brexit strategy before they reach the Jan 31 Article 50 deadline.

brexit

How would each party tackle Brexit in office? Read on to find out in my rundown of their respective programmes. 

The Conservatives

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson likes to tell voters, he has an "oven-ready" deal ready to go as soon as he wins the election. He would plan, as he put it to Tory members,  to "whack it in the microwave...and then we can get on... we can put this deal through Parliament".

If Mr Johnson wins a majority, he will have little trouble getting his deal through Parliament. Even if his majority is little better than the one Mrs May inherited, his Conservative colleagues would have all been elected on an explicit mandate to get the deal through (which all Tory MPs backed at second reading). And so Tory backbenchers would have limited scope to hold it up with any rebellion.

Of course, its smooth passage would be marred if the Tories fail to win a majority, as it would leave them with a hung parliament not dissimilar to the one that has just been dissolved, which would require them to haggle over their deal to get it through. 

Labour

Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit strategy has been mocked for its lack of clarity, but a key part is understandable: renegotiate Mr Johnson's deal and then put it to a referendum within six months of taking office.

However, there are reams of questions that have yet to be resolved by the Labour leader, such as what deal would he seek. A more sensitive question is whether his frontbench colleagues would be forced to support it or free to oppose it, which could be especially awkward if Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry - who have both made clear they will always back Remain - are able to oppose the deal they have helped negotiate. 

These questions are meant to be resolved in a special Brexit conference after the election. But the matter could be complicated even further if Labour fails to win a majority, as it may need to make concessions to the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party in return for their support.

The Liberal Democrats

If the Liberal Democrats win a majority they have made clear, as part of their "Bollocks to Brexit" mantra, that their plan is to revoke Article 50, thereby stopping Brexit altogether.

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK government could revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU under its current terms of membership provided it had a sincere intention to do so. In other words, it could not revoke Article 50 and then invoke it shortly after in order to reset the clock on negotiations. 

However, the Lib Dems would need to win 300 additional seats, a feat unsurpassed in British history, in order to form a majority government. And so the real way they stand to make an influence is by seeking to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, in the hope of forcing Remainer concessions from whoever wants to form a government.

The Brexit Party

If Nigel Farage was swept into Downing Street on a turquoise wave of Brexit Party votes, he would ditch the "dreadful" treaty negotiated by Mr Johnson in order to go full steam ahead for leaving without any such deal in place.

After such a no-deal Brexit, the Brexit Party government would trade on World Trade Organisation rules while it negotiates a free trade agreement with the European Union.

The major problem with this programme is that the Brexit Party has even less chance than the Lib Dems of securing a majority, as Mr Farage himself has conceded.

“You know, I thought watching yesterday Jo Swinson stand up and say I could be the next Prime Minister, I mean it’s funny, I suppose, but it just had no credibility and the same goes for the Brexit party. We can’t win this election.”

And so, like the Lib Dems, the best hope the Brexit Party has of making its mark on the process would be by securing seats in order to act as potential kingmakers for the Tories. This assumes the threat posed by Mr Farage does not persuade the Tories to harden up their Brexit stance in a bid to persuade his troops to stand down.

(Telegraph UK)

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