As the candidates hoping to become Prime Minister in just a few weeks’ time seem locked in a race towards a “no deal” exit from the EU on 31 October, business has its head in its hands.
Indeed, business is far from alone. A list stretching from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the head of the National Crime Agency warn about the desperate consequences of no deal, not just on our jobs and trade, but on our society, our national security and the future of the union.
But, thanks to a quirk in our democracy, the selection of our next Prime Minister is the responsibility of around 125,000 party members, 66% of whom support leaving without a deal. What hope do we have that our future leader will be able to navigate his (or increasingly unlikely, her) way through the leadership race without setting the wheels in motion for a big crash out?
The withdrawal of second-referendum-supporting Sam Gyimah from the race means that the remaining 10 candidates’ views on Brexit range from ‘managed exit’ to reopening negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement — but only two (Rory Stewart (20/1) and Matt Hancock (100/1)) have ruled out no deal. Four have committed to leaving at the end of October come what may (Johnson (4/7), Leadson (8/1), McVey (100/1), and Raab (25/1)) which, given the well-known challenges of renegotiation, mean the odds of no deal shoot up.
But…but…but…whilst we will have a new PM by 22 July, the parliamentary arithmetic against no deal will not have changed. Thankfully, the alarming suggestion that parliament could simply be prorogued to circumvent this inconvenient roadblock to Brexit has been met by widespread condemnation, including by most of the candidates. The key question will be whether events over the next four months will sufficiently shake up Conservative and Labour party thinking such that a consensus for ANYTHING can be found in Parliament.
If not, the only way to break the deadlock has not changed — a general election or a second referendum. And, whilst polls show such poor performance for each of the two ‘main’ parties and an ongoing lack of clarity for what they stand for, appetite for a general election will remain muted. London First believes the best way to end this stalemate is to go back to the people for a definitive vote on a revised exit agreement. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.
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