Britain’s next general election is scheduled for 2020, but Thursday’s high court ruling that the Brexit process cannot be triggered without a vote from Parliament has sparked talk of a mid-term election, given the timetable for leaving the European Union.
Under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, exiting the EU is a two-year process. If it is invoked by the end of March 2017, as Prime Minister Theresa May has announced, the exit process is expected to be completed by 2019. But the high court ruling potentially changes the timeline.
The government will bring legislation in Parliament to authorise it to trigger Article 50, but lawmakers believe that given the many hoops such a legislation needs to pass through, it is unlikely the bill can be passed before May’s March 2017 deadline.
Invoking Article 50 later than March 2017 will bring the exit process nearer to the 2020 general election, and due to the continuing rows on the terms of Brexit and the foreseen and unforeseen events likely to unfold, many believe it may be preferable to hold a mid-term poll on Brexit to give people another say on leaving the EU.
The government has a slender majority in the House of Commons. The prime minister’s office has said there are no plans for a mid-term election before 2020, but Westminster village continues to buzz with the likelihood of May calling one next year.
According to Labour MP Mike Gapes, a general election before Article 50 is triggered is now likely: "I predicted an early election. I think this court judgment makes it now very likely before Article 50 is triggered."
MP Dominic Raab of the ruling Conservative Party said: "I think there must be an increased chance that we will need to go to the country again.”
A major factor in holding an early election is the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011, which mandated a period of five years between two general elections, but experts say if need be, this can be surmounted and the act itself allows for an early election on two grounds.
These grounds are: if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the House or without division, or if a motion of no-confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the House of Commons within 14 days.
Bookmaker Ladbrokes slashed its odds on a general election next year to 2 to 1.