From crashing out without a deal to holding another referendum and remaining in the European Union, the range of outcomes is still wide open
It will be no ordinary general election. Voters in Britain are now focusing their minds on the decision they will make in two weeks’ time. The result will determine not just the next government, but the fate of Brexit.
From crashing out without a deal to holding another referendum and remaining in the European Union, the range of outcomes is still wide open. Here’s a guide to how it could all play out.
Result: Boris Johnson’s Conservatives get more than 325 seats in Parliament.
How We Got There: The polls were right. The Conservatives picked up seats in areas where Labour has traditionally been strong, and southern Tory voters decided they disliked Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn more than Brexit.
What Happens to Brexit: Johnson moves swiftly to get his deal through Parliament -- perhaps even before Dec. 31. Every Conservative candidate has pledged to vote for it and, with his majority, the prime minister can rush it through the House of Commons. Britain leaves the EU by Jan. 31.
Is Brexit Done? Of course not. Johnson then has 11 months to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU. That deal will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and the loyalty pledge Tory candidates have taken doesn’t cover it. Unless Johnson has a majority of more than 40, there’s a risk that rebel Tory MPs who favor a more decisive break with the EU will try to force him to back a harder Brexit.
Set Your No-Deal Alarm For: Dec. 31, 2020.
Result: The Tories are the largest party, but fall just short of a majority.
How We Got There: Like his predecessor Theresa May, Johnson learned that Labour heartlands are hard for Tories to conquer. In the end, voters in those places decided they didn’t trust him. The seats in Leave-voting areas he did pick up were offset by losses in Remain-leaning areas.
What Happens to Brexit: More of the same turmoil. Johnson refuses to step down, while the opposition parties fail to agree among themselves what should happen next. The New Year sees a potential stream of crisis votes in parliament -- to force another delay; to get Johnson’s deal approved; to hold a second referendum; or even to call another election. Meanwhile, the clock ticks down toward Britain’s scheduled exit on Jan. 31.
Set Your No-Deal Alarm For: Jan. 31, 2020
Result: The Conservatives have fewer than 300 seats, Labour loses ground too but enters government thanks to support from smaller parties. The Scottish National Party gets about 50 seats, the Liberal Democrats around 30, and a couple of former Conservatives running as independents somehow hold on.
How We Got There: The Conservatives piled up votes in areas they already held, but didn’t win enough of the districts they needed to take from other parties. Johnson won seats from Labour in the middle of the country, though fewer than he hoped, and lost to the SNP in Scotland. Helped by some tactical voting, the Liberal Democrats made some advances against the Tories in the south.
What Happens to Brexit: Expect another delay. Johnson is clearly beaten, but who replaces him? The Liberal Democrats refuse to put Corbyn in office, and urge Labour to select an alternative prime minister, an idea with which a lot of Labour MPs are privately sympathetic. Christmas sees a battle between Corbyn’s supporters and his detractors. In January, with some kind of alternative government in place, the focus turns to seeking another extension from the EU, this time to allow for a referendum.
Set Your No-Deal Alarm For: Jan. 31, 2020, until the anti-Conservative parties have worked out who will replace Johnson.
Result: The Conservatives sink to 280 seats, and Labour rise to a similar level. Corbyn secures the support of the SNP by offering the Scottish nationalists another independence referendum and becomes prime minister.
How We Got There: He did it. Corbyn staged a late surge in the polls, persuading voters that Johnson is untrustworthy and that the Conservatives were only interested in Brexit. Labour’s promise of more spending on public services didn’t just maintain the party’s share of the vote, it helped it to win over new supporters.
What Happens to Brexit: Corbyn heads to Brussels to seek a deal that keeps Britain close to the single market. EU negotiators pull such a deal off the shelf, and Corbyn puts it to the British people in a referendum in June alongside the option of staying in the EU.
Set Your No-Deal Alarm For: The next Conservative government.