In an attempt to seek a parliamentary majority to enact his Brexit plan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced early elections on December 12, the elections are being held for the fourth time in five years. This, he has stated, was a way out of the political standstill that Britain has been facing since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The last snap election called in 2017 by the then Prime Minister, Theresa May had resulted in a loss of majority for the Conservative Party in British Parliament which then took the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to stay in power.
As the general election campaign enters its third week, opinion polls show the Conservatives taking a 19-point lead over the Labour party. The Conservative share of the vote currently stands at 47 per cent, with Labour on 28 per cent, the Liberal Democrats at 12 per cent and the Brexit party falling back to 3 per cent. A brief observation of the election manifestos of the major parties on their stand on the most important issue of the time, which is undoubtedly Brexit is pertinent here. The Conservatives have centred their campaign on a pledge to deliver Brexit, which it wants to do by the end of January and ‘forge a new Britain’. The party says it wants to “get Brexit done so we can invest in our NHS, schools, and the police”.
In the election manifesto released recently, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that his party “will get Brexit sorted in six months by giving people the final say”. Its new deal would include a “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union,” and “close alignment with the Single Market”. On another occasion, Corbyn however said that he would not campaign for ‘Leave or Remain’ if his party wins power. This neutral stance could backfire for him because the British masses want a leader who can break the country’s crippling political impasse and ensure certainty in their socio-economic lives. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, have pledged to revoke Article 50 and ensure Britain stays in the European Union if they were ever to lead a majority government. The Brexit party have been very much focussing on a ‘clean Brexit’, calling on the Tories to arrange a pact.
Meanwhile, on a completely different note, India has been unnecessarily drawn into the British elections by the Labour party. It must be mentioned here that the Labour members passed a motion at the party’s conference in September saying there was a “humanitarian crisis in Kashmir” and that the people of Kashmir should be given the right of self- determination. This is far from the truth and preposterous to say the least. As a sovereign nation India has the right to make internal changes. The revocation of article 370 had widespread approval within and outside India.
An issue like Kashmir being a deciding factor for voting in Britain can lead to unnecessary tensions being stoked ahead of the elections.
Britain’s future will be far from certain if the elections don’t end up in resolving the deadlock over its exit from the EU. It is high time that the Brexit fatigue comes to an end in the coming year for too much uncertainty is only likely to suffocate growth and development. Prime MinisterJohnson has taken a risk by holding a snap election and with the announcement by the Treasury Minister, Rishi Sunak that preparations for a no-deal Brexit will continue if Conservatives win the elections puts him at a tough spot. Moreover, the British Prime Minister’s decision to rule out any extension of talks beyond 31 December 2020 might imply that he will be forced to accept whatever terms the EU offers or exit the UK without a deal. It remains to be seen whether the main obstacle, that is, the lack of a majority for any Brexit outcome in British Parliament can be overcome before any concrete decision is taken.
Script: Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst on European Affairs