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.

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 PoliticoThe 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.

FILED UNDER: Brexit, United Kingdom, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. grumpy realist says:

    I suspect either a narrow victory for the Tories or a hung Parliament. In both cases what’s probably going to happen Brexit-wise is Boris’s agreement, which results in a wimpy FTA.

    Any attempts to drag things on much longer I can see resulting in the U.K. getting kicked out of the EU.

    Contrary to what a lot of the commentators over at the DT say, I don’t see a “secret majority” swelling up and insisting on a no-deal Brexit. Most everyone will be more-or-less content with a “deal Brexit”, no matter how much the right will screech about it being “Brexit-in-name-only.”

  2. @grumpy realist:

    If there were a substantial anti-Brexit “secret” majority then the Lib Dems would be doing better in the polls. As it is, they have lost support since the election season began.

  3. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Grumpy was talking about a secret pro-Brexit majority if I’m not mistaken.

    The list link 404s for me btw.

  4. Somehow there was a typo in the link for the Twitter list. It’s fixed now and should work.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    EUreferendum will be blogging from 10 PM GST onwards, supposedly.

  6. JohnSF says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    One thing SHOUTS from the visual graphic of the polls: there are two main voting blocks, Con/BrexitParty/UKIP and Lab/LibDem.

    Look how the two pairs mirror image; and how the Conservatives are benefiting from the collapse of the UKIP/BrexitParty vote; while a lot of centrist voters are markedly less willing to shift to Labour.

  7. Kathy says:

    I left work today around 5 am (it’s around noon now), and the polls over in the UK were open. I then slept a bit and came back to work. So it feels as though the election began yesterday and it’s still going on 🙂

    When you read histories of nations or empires at a crossroads, you may be stricken by the towering personalities involved. Say Sulla and Marius in Rome, or Pompeii and Caesar, or more recently FDR and Churchill and Stalin.

    Now I wonder if they were as bad as the current crop of major party UK candidates seem, but look much better at this distance in time.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Reading the comments over at any British newspaper, one gets the impression that people aren’t so much voting FOR a party as they are AGAINST Boris Johnson/Jeremy Corbyn. (The ultra-Brexiters are of course jumping up and down for Farage and The Brexit Party, but they’re at, um, about 3% support?)

    What I find interesting is that even though the U.K. has the same First-Past-the-Post that the U.S. does the vote is split over many more parties who can act as spoilers. We had Ralph Nader and his ego trip, but I don’t think we can say that Jill Stein acted as a spoiler in Trump’s winning, can we? Third parties in the U.S. don’t seem to accumulate sufficient support to be able to act as consistent determinators in our elections the way that the Liberal Dems do in the U.K. and we don’t have regional parties like the SMP or DUP. I guess if the Democratic Party were to have a split between moderate and progressive wings we could see U.K.-like activity, but all our third-parties-that-made-a-difference have been flashes in the pan built around one personality. If the Republicans hadn’t turned into such obsequious toadies about Trump, I could see we could have had a (Trump party) vs. (Democratic Party) vs. (Republican Party).

  9. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Well, I’m certainly against the both of them.
    Positivity is at a premium in this sorry mess.

    To add to the joy, this must be the worst election weather in many a year.
    It’s been raining heavy all day (must be several inches worth) temperature about 8C max, sunrise 8:10, sunset 3:50, might get a frost tonight.

  10. JohnSF says:

    Well, the exit polls are here, and they’re usually right.
    Mori at 144 polling stations, with 22,790 interviewees.

    – Conservatives tracking for majority of 86 (so much for my predicts of low double or single figures…)
    – Labour predicted losing 71 seats.
    – If correct, worst result for Labour since 1935!
    – Can’t find any percentage predictions yet, news sites only have headline seat predictions
    – If correct, the Conservatives have not just broken through the “Red Wall“, they’ve demolished it; and with no LibDem compensation swing in the Lib/Con Remain marginals.
    – Holy hell!

    – The magnificent triumph of Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson!
    – (drinks)
    – God save us all.

    – If Jeremy Corbyn had any sense of honour, he’d be committing sepukku in Parliament Square tomorrow morning.
    – He won’t of course; the Corbynites will just redouble their drive to get a death-lock on the Labour Party, d*mn their miserable souls.

  11. Michael Cain says:

    @JohnSF: Assuming the numbers hold up, I’m more interested in the eventual consequences of the Scottish National Party winning 55 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

  12. JohnSF says:

    Short term:
    The square root of sod all.

    Johnson with majority of north of 50 will just tell Sturgeon to rotate, and garner praise from the peanut gallery of the idiots in Tory Party and Tory Press.

    Long term:
    Remain is gone.
    The Union is gone.
    Britain is gone.
    We lost it.
    And the idiot little Englanders who’ve eaten the Conservative party from the inside won’t ever admit a smidgen of regret or responsibility. Nor the Corbynite crazies. Nor the Nats who are as obsessed about Independence as the Leavers are about Brexit.

    We sail upon the Ship of Fools.

    Drat all their shrivelled short sighted little souls.

  13. JohnSF says:

    Suffering Shiva!
    I can hardly believe this: Blyth Valley goes to Conservatives!

    That used to be hard core Labour; Labour seat since 1950, majorities that were weighed rather than counted.
    Recently as 2010 Conservatives only got 16%
    Yes, Tories got 37% in 2017, but if Labour are losing here, there’s hardly a Labour seat outside the metropolitan core that’s safe.

    2017 “Oh. Jeremy Corbyn…”
    2019 “You fool, you’ve killed us all!”

  14. JohnSF says:

    Blyth valley update:
    Conservative 17,440 42.7
    Labour Co-op 16,728 40.9
    Brexit Party 3,394 8.3
    Liberal Democrats 2,151 5.3
    Green 1,146 2.8

    Those figures probably sum the essence of everything that will happen tonight.
    A nation divided, the divided parts themselves split, the former great parties of the nation captured by their activists, the old industrial centres blighted by decay and it’s consequent political fallout.

  15. Kathy says:


    The Union is gone.

    Odd, isn’t it, that the British (or is it English) Conservatives are finishing the job of imperial divestiture first forced on the UK by the exigencies of World War II.