British politics is in an almighty mess and there are no quick...
Please don’t blame the MPs for not delivering whatever Brexit result you want. A Government without a majority cannot win votes and deliver its policies. We are in a period of our history when this is a continuing problem.
The 2010 election left the Conservatives as the largest parliamentary party but still 20 MPs short of a majority and had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In 2015 the voters punished the Liberal Democrats for doing that and gave the Tories a majority of 12. Misguidedly, Theresa May sought to increase that majority in 2017 and lost it, finishing eight seats short of a majority. Her Government could only survive with the support of the Democratic Unionists, who brought their own issues to debates and votes about Brexit. So now we have a fourth election in nine years with the possibility that no party will obtain a working majority. So what can we expect to happen?
If the Conservatives were to win a majority they would re-introduce the Working Agreement that Mr Johnson negotiated with the EU and push it through Parliament before 31st January 2020. That would take us into the transition period in which the Government would seek to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU. It is very unlikely that this could be achieved by the end of 2020. It took Canada seven years to negotiate their deal with the EU. Failure could still mean us leaving the EU in December 2020 without a deal, with all the risks to our economy and jobs that entailed.
If the Labour Party were to win a majority on December 12th they would most likely dump Johnson’s Working Agreement and re-open negotiations with the EU to secure a deal based on us remaining in a customs union with the EU. That would almost certainly require a further extension to give time for those negotiations but the EU would agree because they favour that solution.
However, there is a serious possibility that neither party will obtain a majority on 12th December. The Brexit party has agreed not to contest seats which the Conservatives have held since 2017 and to focus their attention on seats previously held by Labour. Support for Brexit is strong in some of those northern constituencies. The Liberal Alliance and its Remainer allies – the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Independents – could also take seats from both Labour and the Conservatives where opposition to Brexit is strong, as in the Scottish, Welsh and London constituencies.
An alternative scenario is a coalition between the Conservatives and the Brexit party. Mr Johnson has ruled out such a coalition but there is no knowing how he would respond in a hung Parliament. That scenario would most likely mean us leaving the EU on 31st January 2020 without a deal unless Conservative rebels succeeded in blocking this as they did before last October.
Calling this election was a gamble and the likely outcome is difficult to forecast. Another hung Parliament is a real possibility. Frustrated voters who want an end to the Brexit saga need to recognise that democracy does not always produce the tidy outcomes they expect. The lesson those in Government and Parliament need to learn from the last nine years is that the voters need to be much better informed about the issues on which we are voting so that we are equipped to play our part in the democratic process with greater maturity and wisdom.