Tag Archives: Brexit referendum

The beginning of the end of Brexit?

Although it’s almost 3 years since the Brexit vote in the UK, in many ways it seems like an age, another era. Notwithstanding the fact that the European election in the UK is a poor match to the Brexit referendum in voter turn-out terms, high 30’s compared to over 70% respectively, both polls were singularly about one issue. Nearly 3 years ago, I attempted to estimate the split of the leave and remain votes by political party allegiance (see this post), as reproduced below.

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A similar split for the European election, with an assumption about the leave:remain split of the main Conservative and Labour parties (both of whom polled very poorly in the election), shows that the majority is likely now in favour of remain but by not much more than the leave majority in the Brexit vote.

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There is no doubt that the Brexit issue has changed British politics, likely for a generation. Whether the Brexit party, led by the little Englander Nigel Farage, will be anything other than a one issue party has yet to be seen. The tragedy is that the country looks as split as ever on the issue, the resolution of which is going to result in an embittered minority which could poison British politics for many years to come.

Strong and Stable

The impact of the Brexit vote on UK politics was far reaching and the results of the UK general election have shown just how far reaching. In a post last year following the Brexit vote I said “one lasting impact of the Brexit vote is likely to be on the make-up of British politics”. The graph below shows the political allegiance breakdown of the Brexit vote.

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The Brexit issue meant that the previous political (social class) allegiances of the UK electorate has splintered further by factors such as age and by views on immigration and/or globalisation. This has led to some extraordinary results in Thursday’s election: conservatives winning seats off the Scottish nationalists with swings as large as 16%, a significant number (reportingly 25%) of the collapsed UKIP vote going to Labour, a resurgent left wing Labour winning in some of the wealthiest constituencies in the UK are just a few examples.

Adding to the political volatility is that the Brexit referendum vote has to be implemented by politicians elected under a parliamentary system by a first past the post (FPTP) electoral construct. Given the 4% spread in the Brexit vote, the difference between the seats allocated under a FPTP electoral system as opposed to a proportional representation (PR) one can be material, as the results of the 2015 general election with spreads of +14%/-19% show.

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It is therefore highly interesting to see that the difference between the FPTP and PR systems in Thursday’s election result is significantly less with spreads of +6%/-3%.

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There can be little doubt that the earthquake that the Brexit vote set off in UK politics is far from over and there will be more tremors to come as the Brexit negotiations play out. On the plus side, this election has resulted in a closer parliamentary representation of the UK electorate than the 2015 election. On the minus side, it reflects the uncertainty over the exact type of Brexit that the British electorate wants. And that uncertainty looks set to continue. Strong and stable government in the UK looks to be more aspirational than reality in the coming years.