Politics

A Changing Europe Monitor – Brexit: Now or never

The electorate is upset about the Brexit process, but continues to trust the Conservative party more than anyone else to lead the country. This is the overwhelming message we picked up whilst conducting our field research in March. The electorate is braced for years of disruptions ahead and overall, in our view, is more likely to penalise an extension of the Brexit negotiations than a no- deal scenario.

Although opinion polls show that support for the Labour party is rising, the support base is too narrow to secure an outright victory in the event of early elections, in our view. Even acoalition with another party appears improbable to us. Labour’spopularity faces many constraints, we believe: an unpopular leader, widespread perception of ineffectiveness, excessively bold policies and too much competition for its natural voter base. In our view, these issues cannot be addressed quickly. Ultimately, this favours the odds of another Conservative government in the coming years.

In the event of no deal, the fiscal strategy put in place in response will be an important barometer for the electorate. If the Conservatives opt for lower corporate taxes and a cut in the income tax rate for the top 20%, it would cement the pro-conservative bias that we are observing, even if associated with new cuts in the social safety nets (which we expect).

The post-Brexit immigration policy is the toughest decision the Conservative party will face, and one that could, ultimately,severely undermine the party’s popularity (as well as dictatingthe attractiveness of the UK in a global context). While the campaign slogans paint a straightforward new strategy on immigration; in reality, the electorate is expecting a major tightening of future inflows, while the business sector ultimately needs the opposite to take place. We do not know how these positions can be reconciled.