UK’s Brexit debacle could lead to Labour landslide; Greens, not far right, surge in Germany

UK PM Theresa May has done a deal with the European Union regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit).  However, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned on November 15 as he disagreed with the deal, and other ministers have also quit the government.  The deal will be finalised at a special European Summit on November 25, and will then need to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The Conservatives govern in minority, with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  The DUP will not support the Brexit deal as they disagree with the Irish backstop arrangement.  Hard Brexiteers think the deal a betrayal of Britain, and are also likely to vote it down.

The major opposition parties – Labour, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats – will also vote against the deal.  In Labour’s case, they want to force an immediate general election.  The Lib Dems and SNP will oppose because they do not accept the premise of “no deal” vs May’s deal, and want Brexit called off.

There may be a few Labour rebels who will cross the floor to vote for May’s deal as they fear a “no deal”, but these will be more than compensated for by Conservative hard Brexiteers, hard Remainers, and the DUP.  The UK House of Commons is likely to reject May’s deal.

However, while Conservative rebels will vote against May’s deal, they are unlikely to vote for a formal no-confidence motion, the only way an early election can be held without the government’s consent.  Any Labour proposal to change Brexit would run into the same problem.

On March 29, 2019, the UK will leave the European Union, with or without a deal.  A no-deal Brexit is likely to greatly damage the UK economy, and the Conservatives are likely to be blamed for this damage.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was written off before the 2017 election, but forced the Conservatives into a minority government.  If a no-deal Brexit crashes the UK economy, Corbyn is likely to lead Labour to a landslide victory at the next general election.

The next election is not due until 2022, but, if the economic damage from a no deal Brexit is great enough, moderate Conservatives may consider a “socialist” government better than the UK’s economic collapse.  In such a circumstance, Labour could win a no-confidence motion, and force an election.

A source for this section is Stephen Bush of the New Statesman’s Morning Call email (though it is more like Evening Call in Melbourne).

The Greens are surging in Germany, not the far-right AfD

At the September 2017 German election, the combined conservative Union parties won 32.9%, the Social Democrats 20.5%, the far-right AfD 12.6%, the pro-business Free Democrats 10.7%, the Left party 9.2% and the Greens 8.9%.  In March 2018, the Social Democrats and Union parties formed a grand coalition government, the third time in the past fourterms such a right/left government had been formed.

Both major parties have lost support, with the Union parties falling to 26.4% in Wikipedia’s poll aggregate, and the Social Democrats to just 14.4%.  However, the Greens have been easily the biggest benificiary, not the AfD.  Greens’ support has surged to 21.0%, while AfD support has increased much less to 15.0%.

The Social Democrats’ 20.5% in 2017 was already the lowest they had polled at a general election since the Second World War, and their support has continued to drop, probably due to the grand coalition.  The Greens are likely to be the biggest left-wing party at the next German election.

At the October 2018 Bavarian state election, the Greens were second with 17.6%, up 9.0% since 2013.  Both the Social Union and Social Democrats suffered drops of over 10%.  The AfD, which did not contest the previous Bavarian election, won 10.2%.

Theresa May likely to survive soft Brexit fallout

At the June 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK voted to Leave the European Union by a 51.9-48.1 margin.  In April 2017, the Conservatives led Labour by nearly 20 points in the polls.  Expecting a landslide Conservative victory, PM Theresa May called a June 2017 election, three years early.  Instead, Labour surged in the campaign, and the Conservatives lost their Commons majority.

The Conservatives won 317 of the 650 seats, Labour 262, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) 35, the Liberal Democrats 12 and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ten.  The Conservatives were forced into an agreement with the DUP.

Since the election, May has tended to defer important Brexit decisions, thus keeping the support of both the hard right Brexit faction and the soft Brexit faction within the Conservatives.  However, on July 6, May’s Cabinet met at Chequers, and settled on a soft Brexit, in an attempt to avoid economic fallout from a hard Brexit.

As a result of this decision, two prominent hard Brexiteers – Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – resigned from Cabinet on July 8-9.  The hard Brexit faction of the Conservatives is deeply unhappy with the Chequers deal, and many are demanding May’s resignation.  But can they force May to resign?

To bring on a vote of no-confidence in the Conservative leader, 15% of Conservative MPs must write letters to the Chair of the 1922 Committee expressing no-confidence.  If this threshold is passed, all Conservative MPs have a vote, and a majority no-confidence vote is required to oust the leader.

While hard Brexiteers have the 48 MPs required to trigger a confidence vote in May’s leadership, they are far short of the 159 MPs required to win such a vote.

In parliament, while the hard Brexiteers can propose amendments to Brexit and other legislation, they are powerless unless Labour joins them.  While it is not pro-Remain, Labour’s Brexit policy is to the left of the Conservatives, and there will be few occasions when hard Brexiteers and Labour vote together.

An occasion where Labour and hard Brexiteers could vote together is on a formal confidence vote in the government.  However, hard Brexiteers are right-wing on other issues, and do not want to make Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn PM, as they perceive him to be a socialist.

If a Brexit deal is agreed with the European Union, parliament must ratify the deal.  For their own reasons, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems are likely to oppose the deal.  If the Conservatives were defeated in the vote on the Brexit deal, the UK would crash out without a deal on March 29, 2019.

So if Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems hold to their current position of opposing the Brexit deal, hard Brexiteers can secure the hardest Brexit – but likely with disastrous economic consequences.

A YouGov poll before the Chequers meeting gave the Conservatives a 41-40 lead over Labour.  After the Chequers meeting, the parties were tied at 39% each.  After the resignations of Davis and Johnson, Labour led by 39-37, with the Conservatives losing support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).  This was Labour’s first lead in a YouGov poll since March.  Disillusionment with the Conservatives could damage them further in the coming days and weeks.

A major source for this article is Stephen Bush of the New Statesman’s Morning Call email (though it is more like Evening Call in Melbourne).