UK Election: Johnson and Tories Weakening?
Final polls cast some doubt over a Conservative majority.
- It looks more likely than before that the election could yield only a small majority for Johnson.
- Because some polls are now within the margin of error, one cannot rule out a hung parliament.
- Despite probably still having the most seats in a hung parliament scenario, there is no feasible coalition partner for the Conservatives.
- If Johnson wins with only a slim majority, the eurosceptics in his party would likely refuse to back a longer transition.
The final polls ahead of tomorrow’s UK general election suggest that Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party might not be set to win a majority.
An updated projection by YouGov-MRP published last night showed a 28-seat majority for the Conservatives, down from 68 two weeks ago. The pollster said that, because the estimate was now within the margin of error, one cannot rule out a hung parliament.
In addition, while most recent polls show the Conservatives edging a little higher with a lead over Labour ranging from 8-15 percentage points, two recent polls by ICM Research and SavantaComRes put the party just 6 percentage points and 7 percentage points ahead, respectively.
Odds are that an 8 percentage point lead would keep the Conservatives in the safe zone for a majority.
Still on for a Conservative majority?
The probable answer is yes. Despite the latest developments in the polls, Johnson is likely to win a majority.
However, it looks more likely than before that the election could yield only a small majority for Johnson.
The 28 seat majority predicted by YouGov would be the biggest single-party majority for a UK government since Labour won the election in 2005.
However, it would not be enough to dilute the influence of the eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party. With only a small working majority of say 10-30 seats compared to 30 seats or more, the Conservative hardliners will have a bigger influence over negotiations about the future UK-EU relationship.
Watch the hard Brexit risk
Therefore, the risk that the UK could leave the single market without any follow-up agreement would not be fully off the table even if an orderly Brexit happens on January 31, 2020.
In case the EU and the UK fail to strike a deal on their future economic relations, a hard Brexit could happen at the end of 2020.
Subject to a vote in parliament, the UK would have the option to lengthen the transition period – and remain in the single market – in order to give more time for the negotiations on the future relationship.
But that risk would rise if Johnson wins with only a slim majority. The eurosceptics in his party would likely refuse to back a longer transition.
Hung parliament – what if?
In case no party wins a majority, one needs to ask which parties could potentially form a coalition. Despite probably still having the most seats in a hung parliament scenario, there is no feasible coalition partner for the Conservatives.
All other major parties either reject Johnson’s renegotiated Brexit deal, want a second referendum or want to stop Brexit altogether. The key question is whether the Labour Party could find a partner.
The most likely candidate is the Scottish National Party (SNP). But polling suggests that together they would still fall short of a majority. That leaves two options:
1. Return to the polls for another general election in early 2020, or
2. If Labour and the SNP manage to bring the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats into a coalition, we could still see a second EU referendum in 2020.