Brexit rows plunge UK into poll mode again on Dec 12
After its passage in the House, the bill to hold the election is expected to be passed in the House of Lords on Wednesday evening. Parliament is then likely to be prorogued on November 6 to begin five weeks of campaigning before the first December election since 1923.Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 22:16 IST
The United Kingdom moved into poll mode on Wednesday after the House of Commons on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to hold another mid-term election on December 12 to resolve the Brexit imbroglio that has divided the country since the 2016 EU referendum.
After its passage in the House, the bill to hold the election is expected to be passed in the House of Lords on Wednesday evening. Parliament is then likely to be prorogued on November 6 to begin five weeks of campaigning before the first December election since 1923.
Over 50 MPs from various parties announced that they will not contest, driven by reasons that include threats and intimidation faced due to their stand on Brexit. They include the veteran Tory Ken Clarke and the senior pro-India Labour MP Stephen Pound.
The election is expected to further dilute Britain’s long-standing two-party politics (Conservative, Labour) in favour of smaller parties whose influence has grown in recent elections. There are also concerns over turnout due to the election’s pre-Christmas timing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn jousted during the last Prime Minister’s Questions in the current House of Commons on Wednesday, as parties geared up to draft manifestos, and finalise candidates and campaign material.
Opinion polls suggest the Johnson-led Conservative party is ahead of Labour, but another hung parliament is considered the most likely outcome, providing opportunities for smaller parties to influence policy on Brexit and other key issues such as health and education.
Two of the last three elections resulted in hung parliaments: David Cameron led a coalition government with Liberal Democrats after the 2010 election, and Theresa May led a minority government after 2017 with support of the Democratic Unionist Party.
The fate of Brexit will depend on the outcome of the election: at least two significant parties – Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party – want to cancel Brexit, while Labour has an ambiguous position, seeking to hold another referendum on the issue.
Johnson’s campaign plank is to seek a comfortable majority so that he can deliver on the outcome of the 2016 referendum by the new Brexit deadline of January 31. Winning the election will be seen as an endorsement of his withdrawal agreement secured in Brussels earlier this month.
Four scenarios after December 12 are:
1. Brexit happens by the new deadline of January 31 under the agreement reached by Johnson.
2. The agreement with Brussels is renegotiated.
3. Another referendum is held to seek people’s approval on the terms of Brexit outlined in the agreement.
4. Brexit is cancelled.