Report: Countdown to Brexit, in partnership with Demos

This week the Prime Minister urged MPs to “not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum”.

Our research with Demos suggests that the way forward for the country might be unclear, but the Conservative government has few options but to soldier on the way it is going. The Brexit battles lines run so deep that Theresa May is left with little alternative but to block a public vote. A large chunk of her voters are now more loyal to Brexit than the party, and many Conservative supporters now consider anything that puts that in peril unacceptable.  

On the other hand, Labour is stuck in its own dilemma. The party is now the home to increasingly concerned Remain voters hoping to prevent Brexit. With the Labour leadership unable or unwilling to get behind a second vote, its voters are increasingly despondent and are on the lookout for another political force that will.

Ultimately, we find that the divisions in the electorate are so great, and Brexit so close, that there is little political room to manoeuvre for either major party. Until the political discourse becomes about something else, both parties can only survive by playing to their base.

The Conservative Party has to ensure that whatever happens on 29th March the UK leaves the European Union. If the UK isn’t out of the EU in March, serious damage could be done to the Conservative Party’s poll ratings in the short-term, with a prolonged extension of EU membership doing serious damage to the party’s ability to ever win back committed Leave voters.

Labour is left with a difficult balancing act. It must try to not excite Brexiteer sentiment within its own traditional group of voters while responding to the increasingly concerned Remain voters who want the party to challenge the government on Brexit. Brexit might do damage to the Conservatives but failure to make a stand could see those who flocked to Labour at the general election looking for another political party entirely.

Read our full report on the Countdown to Brexit and the challenges faced by both parties over the coming months.

See the full data tables here