Note the date of this piece: 1st June 2017. One week prior to the UK’s General Election. This is written in response to the current state of the election debate and opinion polls. I cannot judge which of these outcomes will now come to pass – I instead am plotting what will happen with regard to the forthcoming Brexit negotiations for each outcome. Comments are as ever most welcome!

Scenario 1: Theresa May wins convincingly (majority of 50+ seats in Commons)
Impact on Brexit: little change to current line (see this background).
Theresa May’s future: secure for now.
Negotiations to start: as scheduled on 19th June.
Look out for: does May keep or sack David Davis as Brexit Minister in a post-election reshuffle? What is the balance of hard core Brexiteers versus pragmatists in her new cabinet? What role is given to Philip Hammond, the most senior pragmatist? As negotiations start this option puts more power in May’s hands – what she wants from Brexit she can largely get on the UK side (how pragmatic or not the UK line is will depend on her).

Scenario 2: May wins, but with only a marginally increased majority (majority of 17 to 50 seats in Commons)
Impact on Brexit: publicly the line will not change, but government’s ability to deliver it might.
Theresa May’s future: secure very short term, short to medium term knives will be sharpened to oust her.
Negotiations to start: as scheduled on 19th June.
Look out for: composition of May’s cabinet is more delicate in this scenario, as it has to balance all parts of the Conservative Party. Get it wrong and mutiny starts sooner. Means David Davis is more likely to stay as Brexit Minister. Increases chances of parliamentary rebellion as Brexit negotiations advance. Both pragmatists and Brexit hard liners can cause May problems. Instability looms although it will not happen immediately.

Scenario 3: May wins, but with a reduced majority (majority of 1 to 17 seats in Commons)
Impact on Brexit: significant and problematic, especially in terms of timetable.
Theresa May’s future: she staked her reputation on this early election and by her standards lost. Tory Party would likely oust her – but for whom? (current betting odds)
Negotiations to start: highly unlikely to start 19th June as UK would have a short term internal headache. UK will need weeks or months to sort things out.
Look out for: what happens to May. What factions form within the Conservative Party. Can any candidate stabilise and unify the party? And then what do they say about Brexit? Plus with a wafer thin majority the chances of parliamentary rebellion as the Brexit process advances will increase.

Scenario 4: No party has a majority (hung parliament)
(note: I am not going into possible alliances here – pretty much all the parties have said they are not going to go into coalition with others, so if coalition is even possible is hard to determine at the moment)
Impact on Brexit: major.
Theresa May’s future: out immediately. She had a majority and lost it.
Negotiations to start: cannot start 19th June as EU would have no-one to negotiate with. Whole Brexit timetable would be in question.
Look out for: are any coalition or minority government with parliamentary support options even possible? Does any character emerge in the Tory Party as an alternative to May to steady the ship? And what is that person’s view on Brexit? Plus how long will the instability of this outcome last – with no obvious way forward (as there was after the 2010 election that resulted in a hung parliament) it could last some time. Do parties use Brexit criteria (second referendum?) as a price for joining coalition?

Scenario 5: Labour majority
Impact on Brexit: significant.
Theresa May’s future: out immediately, but ultimately not central to this scenario.
Negotiations to start: new government would need more time to get its act together (see this), but negotiations could start reasonably soon.
Look out for: who does Corbyn put in his cabinet? Does he keep Keir Starmer in the Brexit role? Do centrist Labour MPs like Chuka Umunna seek to reconcile their differences with Corbyn (and maybe even take ministerial positions?) or keep nagging him from the backbenches? Does Corbyn delegate responsibility for Brexit, or keep a tight grip on it? The tone Corbyn would strike would be more conciliatory than May’s, but the Labour Party is officially committed to Hard Brexit anyway – could the party actually deliver it though? Labour would pay more attention to Brexit detail than the Tories have so far.

One Comment

  1. Hunter

    If there was a hung parliament and no eventual coalition then this would mean another election in a few months time wouldn’t it? Which would put the second 2017 General Election to sometime in August….which would mean 4-5 months out of the 2 years (or in reality the 18 months as the EU’s negotiators have noted) that the UK has left to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. That would leave a little over a year/year and a half in which to actually negotiate a deal…

    Perhaps though if yet another election was called it’s anybody’s call as to what would happen. Realistically with 14-20 months left to negotiate the UK would be well advised to drop the current rhetoric and sign up for the EEA/EFTA arrangement or some association agreement which mirrors the EEA and includes custom union as part of the agreement. Then at least negotiations should be able to proceed fairly quickly and amicably. If that isn’t what happens though, then I think everyone should start preparing for the the worst Brexit within the realm of possibility – not just no deal Brexit, but a UK which has lost all sense of direction. In that kind of environment I could see support for Scottish independence (and even Irish reunification) rising.

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