Sep 23, 2019

U.K.'s Labour Party votes not to campaign against Brexit in next election

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The U.K.'s Labour Party — the main opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament — voted at their annual party conference on Monday against a measure to campaign in favor of remaining in the European Union during the next general election.

Why it matters: Intra-party divisions were on full display during the annual conference, a chance for Labour to lay out its strategy for defeating the largely pro-Brexit Conservative Party at an election that will likely take place in the next few months. Rather than campaign "energetically" on canceling Brexit, Labour's platform will advocate for negotiating a new divorce deal with the EU and presenting it to the British people in a new referendum — with "remain" as the alternative option.

  • Only after that deal is negotiated will the party vote at a special conference on which side they will campaign for in the hypothetical referendum.

The big picture: The vast majority of Labour's members support remaining in the EU, but about 30% voted in favor of Brexit during the 2016 referendum. This dynamic has proven to be a significant challenge, with the party leadership's refusal to pick a side on the most polarizing issue in modern British history contributing to a drop in the polls.

Between the lines: It's not yet clear how Labour's latest decision to propose a second referendum without explicitly campaigning to remain will affect voters at the next election.

  • The Liberal Democrats, a smaller and more centrist third party, will campaign on a platform to cancel Brexit altogether if they earn a majority — attempting to market themselves as the pro-Remain option.

The bottom line: Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, despite Parliament passing a law requiring him to ask for an extension if he can't strike a deal with the EU. If, by some miracle, Johnson is able to strike a deal acceptable to Parliament, Labour and the other parties' position on Brexit won't matter at the next election.

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On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom shocked the world and voted to “Brexit,” or leave the European Union. After more than three years of uncertainty and fractured politics, the U.K. officially exited the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this morning that he's reached a "great new" Brexit deal with the European Union — a statement almost unforeseeable one week ago, when Johnson seemed to be steaming toward a constitutional crisis over a potential "no deal" Brexit on the Oct. 31 deadline.

Between the lines: Johnson's deal is similar to the one his predecessor, Theresa May, saw repeatedly rejected in Parliament (including by Johnson), with some tweaks around the crucial issue of Northern Ireland.

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