1. Political suicide
Even though the 2016 referendum was close, the Brexiteers edged it in the end. The issue is clearly a divisive one, the effects of which will likely continue to manifest themselves throughout the coming electoral contests and political battles, but it would political suicide of the highest order for the government to go back on the referendum vote. Even if a new referendum rejected the government’s Brexit deal, it is incredibly difficult to see the Conservative government going back on their promises to take Britain outside the union.
2. The reluctant Brexiteers
Even though the vote to leave the European Union was an incredibly close one, most of the British public, including half of remainers, accept that the UK will be leaving the union. That is, if one believes the findings of a YouGov poll conducted this May. The poll indicated that 45% of voters were completely committed to Brexit, and that, most interestingly, a further 23% agreed with the statement that “I did not support Britain leaving the EU, but now the British people have voted to leave the government has a duty to carry out their wishes and leave.” That takes those committed to leaving the EU to 68%. A further 22% said they did not support Brexit.
There is clearly a strong section of the electorate who are opposed to taking the UK out of the European Union, but this poll indicates that almost 7 in 10 accept the result of the referendum and agree that the government should comply with it.
3. Time is running out
When Theresa May pulled the trigger that was Article 50 at the end of March, she set the country on a path to leave the EU. As it stands, there are just over 19 months until the UK is due to leave the union. The chances of a new election, which results in a massive win for a pro-EU party, are slimming by the day.
4. Reversing Article 50
Let’s say the UK government decided that the UK should remain in the EU. How would Europe feel about this? There would likely be some sighs of relief, but also some resentment towards the upheaval caused by the Brexit vote. Another, more pressing question, is: can Article 50 be “un-triggered”. There is an ongoing debate over this very issue, with UK Business Insider giving a run-down of the arguments on both sides.
It is difficult to say how this could happen, but it is possible that all of the EU27 could end up having to give permission to the UK in order for Article 50 to be cancelled.
5. Conservative-DUP government
With support from the DUP, the Conservatives have a very slim majority indeed, but the election ensured that a pro-Brexit government was elected in June. Add to that, the small majority and the rise in popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives will not want another election any time soon, especially if that risks derailing the Brexit process.
An early election is more than possible, but it is difficult to see it happening before the UK leaves the EU in early 2019.
6. Labour now back leave
Labour’s position on the type of Brexit it supports may be somewhat murky, but it is clear that the party now supports Britain’s withdrawal from the union. With Britain’s two largest parties both in favour of Brexit, it is tricky to imagine the UK changing its mind on the issue.
7. The Liberal Democrats are stagnating
The Liberal Democrats went into the 2017 general election as a proudly pro-EU party, but failed to make much progress when the country voted. The party did gain four MPs, but their share of the vote, as well as their popular vote total, went down, a sign that the party’s pro-EU message failed to cut through. It’s possible that some of their potential vote went to Labour, with the likelihood that they would support a softer Brexit, but there was clearly no overwhelming demand for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats.