Prediction impossible: Britain heading to the polls in December

The upcoming snap general election will be dominated by one single issue: Brexit. Yet, giving the people a say might still not resolve the current deadlock in parliament.

There is a range of impacts resulting from Brexit the British population might worry about, but a lack of democratic participation certainly isn’t one of them. After 100 days in office, Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally got the election he was seeking so desperately, the second snap election in three years. After all, he enjoys a comfortable lead in all polls – the so-called “Boris bounce”.

There however is a real danger for Johnson that this Boris bounce turns into a Boris yo-yo. His inability to fulfil the promise of leaving the EU by 31 October has given new strength to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party from whom he had been attracting voters. Both are open to a no-deal exit and could see the high number of Brexiters dissipate while a more pro-European party comes to power.

But luckily for Johnson the Brexiteer camp is not the only one that risks a split between parties. Labour’s ambiguous stance – trying to please both leavers and remainers – has led to a surge in support for the outspokenly pro-EU Liberal Democrats. Moreover, the Greens and the Scottish Nationalist Party SNP will take their share of remainers’ votes too.

The clock is ticking

From this perspective a hung parliament where no party wins the majority of seats seems likely. In such case, the forming of a coalition government would be required. Yet, considering the European Council’s “deadline” for Brexit ends at the end of January, there might not be enough time to negotiate a coalition and pass a Brexit deal in parliament.

Hence, even if Johnson wins the election, he could face the same problem he has been crippling with in the Commons over the past three months: the absence of a majority for his deal, or for a hard Brexit, or for a second EU referendum. In the end, the upcoming election might waste lots of time without achieving any progress on the issue at stake.

Or at least so goes one possible analysis of many. British political scientists are pointing out that this time predictions about the outcome are extremely difficult to make and ultimately unreliable. Rarely has the electorate been so volatile and age groups so divided. Will the surge in young voters’ registration favour remain parties? Will voters engage in tactical voting to boost support for Brexit? Will candidates enter election pacts? 12 December will tell.

Now or never

Meanwhile up North in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the nationalist SNP seeks to seize the opportunity of Brexit and lead the Scots – predominantly in favour of EU membership – towards independence.

Addressing a rally in Glasgow on Saturday, Sturgeon reaffirmed her plan to hold another independence referendum next year despite the resistance of Britain’s mainstream parties who can block such attempt in the Commons. Still she recognizes that the threat of a hard Brexit holds the key to boosting support for an independent Scotland. Who knows when the SNP will get a similar chance again?

Brexit has turned the British political debate into a farce that deflects attention away from the real problems: poverty, drug deaths, inequality and the like. In December we will know whether we have reached the end of it or only stand at the beginning of something bigger – the breakup of the UK and emergence of a new 28th EU member state, Scotland.

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