LONDON — With the Conservatives streaking ahead in opinion polls, Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early general election on Tuesday.
May’s Conservatives are the favourites to win — a YouGov opinion poll published on Sunday gave the Tories a 21% lead over Labour among respondents — freeing her hand to conduct Brexit negotiations against a weakened opposition.
While almost half of voters in the June Brexit referendum opposed leaving the European Union, it will be difficult for Labour MPs to appeal to them from their constituencies and oppose the Brexit process itself.
Around 74% of the UK’s 650 MPs were in favour of remaining in the European Union.
But when the referendum vote is applied to traditional parliamentary constituencies, rather than the total percentages used to calculate the vote, only around 39% of constituency seats voted to Remain.
This is according to data from the University of East Anglia compiled by analysts at Nomura in a note to clients last year. The analysis comes courtesy of the UEA’s Chris Hanretty.
Leave beat Remain by a close 51.9% to 48.1% in the official result of the June referendum.
But now that the result rests with MPs, the parliamentary system has magnified the margin to something closer to 61% to 39%, which means that a so-called hard Brexit deal will be politically harder to oppose. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a former campaigner for the UK to remain in the European Union, has said his party won’t stand in the way of starting the formal talks to leave the European Union.
Here’s the chart:
And here’s Nomura (emphasis ours):
“When you think of it like that, it becomes quite clear as to why MPs have so quickly accepted the result of the referendum (even if against their own opinions) but especially why the conservatives have turned so “Hard Brexit” (Conservatives have three times more leave constituency results than remain).”
It’s particularly a problem for Labour MPs, which had a high proportion of pro-Remain MPs with pro-Leave voting constituents for the referendum.
Here’s that chart:
As the voice of the opposition, a weakened Labour parliamentary presence is bad news for those that did vote Remain.
Here’s Nomura again (emphasis ours):
“More importantly we would point out that for Labour they have a much larger leave result than remain too so whilst they may try to soften the negotiating stance of the government in parliament via any vote it is hard to see that they don’t eventually vote it through (no matter how vague the aims of negotiation are).
“So whilst there will undoubtedly be a lot of political noise within the chamber, whether a vote on Article 50 is triggered in parliament or not should not materially change the end game, the UK is heading towards a Hard Brexit.”
That is maybe why it feels like Labour isn’t getting tough on Conservative ministers who are pushing for a hard Brexit, which involves leaving the European Union without any special trade deals in place. The MPs have got one eye on Brexit and the other on the next election.
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