The EU parliamentary elections on May 23 are going to be problematic for both PM Theresa May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party. Opinion polls suggest together they may garner no more than one-third of the vote, which is almost half the vote they jointly “won” in the drubbing they collectively received in the recent local elections. Instead, the newly formed Brexit party (now campaigning for a hard departure) is likely to win around one-third of the vote, while the range of “Remain” parties (increasingly demanding a second referendum) poll similarly.
This would mean that even if the current Labour/Conservative Brexit discussions were to arrive at a compromise (with May erasing her customs union red line, for instance), this softer Brexit would be unpalatable to the vast majority of voters. UK Parliament, where a middle ground regarding Brexit is also looking increasingly elusive, will keep this in mind. Labour MPs, including some of the party’s hierarchy, are actually suggesting any Brexit deal would not win their support unless it came with a so-called confirmatory referendum.
This is anathema to the bulk of the Conservatives, who are instead refocusing their efforts on unseating May, either by changing party rules to allow a fresh no-confidence vote or by having her face potentially insurmountable pressure from the party’s highly pro-Brexit grassroots at an extraordinary meeting on June 15. But ditching May is likely to only accentuate these parliamentary and electoral divides, thereby making any subsequent Brexit compromise even harder to find!