- Statistics from the European election results in the UK suggest that Remain would have won, easily, if this had been a “proxy” referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union.
- Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Brexit supporters inside the Conservative Party are now likely to fight tooth and nail against a second referendum – they know they will lose.
- There is an obvious strategic advantage for Labour if it were to now pivot in favour of a second vote.
Reacting to the UK’s European election results Monday morning, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said: “These elections became a proxy second referendum. Over the coming days we will have conversations across our party and movement and reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide.”
Let’s take him at his word.
If this really had been a second referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union, what would the results have been?
These charts show that Remain would have won, easily, despite the Brexit Party’s victory.
Our first chart shows vote totals for all the major parties. I have grouped them into bundles of “Remain” voters on the left and “Leave” voters on the right. All the parties except for Labour and Conservative had solid Remain or Leave positions.
Only the Conservatives and Labour went into the elections with compromise positions, the Conservatives favouring Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and Labour favouring a softer Brexit that keeps Britain more closely tied to the European Union’s single market.
To account for those compromise positions – and with the assumption that most Labour voters oppose Brexit and most Conservatives support it – I broke out the Remain-Leave totals both with and without the main parties.
No matter which way you cut it, a clear majority of voters in this election went for Remain-oriented parties:
If the totals were presented as a binary choice in a second referendum, the result would have been:
- Remain: 55.3%
- Leave: 44.7%
That’s a 10-point majority favouring Remain. In total, the Remain bloc won 9.3 million votes while the Leave contingent brought in 7 million.
This is not wishful thinking. The results underscore the monthly averages of tracking polls taken by YouGov since the 2016 Brexit referendum.
YouGov polls show a majority of Brits think Brexit was the wrong decision
What does all this mean?
Two things: Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party may have placed first in Sunday night’s results, but Britain is a solid Remain-leaning country. A second referendum would now seem likely to reverse the Brexit decision – so expect Farage and the hardline Brexiteers inside the Conservative Party to resist a “people’s vote” or a “confirmatory vote” tooth and nail. They know they will lose if that vote takes place.
As for Corbyn and Labour, the party’s pro-Brexit position is costing it votes. It finished third in last week’s vote after a strong showing from the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats. Its European vote is now almost on par with the Green Party – a previously unthinkable proposition. A Labour pivot to outright support for a second referendum could shore up the Remain vote and – if delivered – land a crushing blow on the Conservatives.
From a purely strategic point of view, that prospect must now look tempting to Corbyn.
- Read more:
- How Europeans’ household net worth is ‘now exclusively driven’ by negative interest rates
- Italy’s ‘perma-recession’ could trigger a €2 trillion financial crisis that threatens the eurozone itself
- The price of Brexit has been £66 billion so far, plus an impending recession – and it hasn’t even started yet
- The closer we get to Brexit, the more solid the majority against it is
- Polls show Brexit regret is so strong that ‘Remain’ would win a second referendum by 9 points
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