British Voters Head To The Polls In Vote That Could Finally Decide Brexit’s Fate
British voters are voting today in the third election in four years. This time, the fate of Brexit is on the ballot.
With the future of the United Kingdom and Europe on the line, British voters are headed to the polls in the third election in the past four years, and the first December election in nearly a century. Depending on the result, we will see either a clear path toward the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union or yet more uncharted territory that could even include a second referendum on whether Brexit should take place at all:
The United Kingdom goes to the polls Thursday to decide the fate of vexatious, divisive, gridlocked Brexit. The vote — between the two major parties offering the starkest of choices — is set to shape Britain’s sense of itself, its union, economy and relations not only with Europe but also the United States, for years to come.
There’s no escaping it. This snap election was called because Britain is broken over Brexit.
If Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives achieve a solid majority in Parliament, they will assuredly plow forward with Brexit. Dreams of a second referendum — of remaining in the E.U. — will be dashed. And by January, one of the dominant partners in the long, lucrative, peaceful, postwar order, manifested by Europe’s political and trade bloc, will go off on its own.
A Conservative majority has been widely anticipated, as opinion polls through much of the six-week campaign have showed the party with a lead of 10 points or more. But that advantage may be diminishing.
A last major poll published Tuesday night by YouGov predicted the Conservatives would win with a 28-seat majority, less than half the 68-seat majority that was forecast two weeks ago. The pollster said the prediction was within the margin of error and warned that a hung Parliament — or an even larger Conservative majority — is still a possibility.
If the voters deny Johnson the outright win he has been pleading for, hobbling him with an enfeebled slim-majority government or, worse for him, a hung Parliament — well, then, things could get very testy, with yet more months or years of paralysis over Brexit to follow.
If Johnson’s archrival, the opposition Labour Party leader, the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn, surprises every one of the pollsters and takes enough votes, he could best the Tories and try to cobble together a coalition to run the country and begin his promised “radical transformation” of the British economy under a socialist banner.
Britons cry that they are weary of the current era of noxious, hyperpartisan politics, though in truth, the public has stoked this furnace, with their honest, but harsh, differences of opinion.
This is the third general election in a little more than four years, and, according to the surplus of opinion surveys and interviews, people are as hopelessly divided over leaving the E.U. as they were in June 2016, when they voted 52 percent to 48 percent to go their own way.
The entire country has been transformed into “Remainers” vs. “Leavers.” Family and friends have become combative over issues they never imagined they’d fight over — such as frictionless trade or the diktats of the European Court of Justice.
Traditional courtesies have been flung aside, with members of Parliament hurling charges of treason and surrender at one another in the House of Commons and decrying plots to “undermine democracy.”
Campaigning lawmakers from both parties, but especially women, say they have been terrified of being physically attacked while knocking on constituents’ doors.
Looking at the poll-trackers from Politico, The Economist, and Britain Elects, the averages all have the Conservatives leading by between nine and ten points, which could translate into anything ranging from a substantial majority to a razor-thin one depending on how these numbers translate into vote in each of the 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom. These three poll trackers all show the Conservatives garnering anywhere between 44% and 42% of the national vote, followed by Labour which is garnering between 33% and 32%. After Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the only national party with an anti-Brexit platform is polling around 12%, which is below where it stood before the election campaign began. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which at one point was ahead of the Lib Dems for third place in the national polls, is down to roughly 3% in national polling. Beyond that, of course, there are regional parties such as the Scottish National Party and the Democratic Unionist Party which are strong forces in their respective regions of Scotland and Northern Ireland but aren’t really having an impact on the polls nationally.
Notwithstanding these poll trackers, several last-minute polls appeared to show the gap between the Tories and Labour closing more than the poll trackers are revealing. Based on that polling, YouGov estimated early this week that the most likely outcomes ranged anywhere from an outright and solid Tory majority, a thinner Tory majority, a hung Parliament that would require Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek third party support to sustain control over Parliament, and, last and least likely, a Labour majority. Obviously, anything other than a Tory majority would once again throw the entire Brexit process into doubt yet again.
It’s also worth noting that using national polling to predict the final composition of the House of Commons is far from being an exact science. We saw this in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections and in connection with the 2016 Brexit Election when pre-election polls did not even come close to accurately predicting the outcome of the respective races. Notwithstanding all of that, though, it is beginning to look as though Boris Johnson’s election gamble will pay off and that, at the very least, he will end up with a solid enough majority to push his Brexit bill through Parliament well before the January 31st deadline.
The polls in the U.K. will close at 10:00 p.m. local time tonight, which translates into 5:00 p.m. on the East Coast of the United States. At some point shortly after then, we’ll get our first indication of a possible outcome in the polling with the release of the initial exit polling. While not a final result, that poll has been fairly close to final results in recent elections, especially two years ago when it was the first indication of the big Tory win that we ultimately saw. Additionally, there will likely be live coverage of the result on BBC News for those of you in the United States who get that in your cable package, It’s also likely that C-Span will simulcast election coverage from ITV News on one of its channels as it has in the past. Finally, for those of you on Twitter, I have created a Twitter List of British news outlets, pundits, and election-related Twitter accounts that will be posting results throughout the night.