Voters in the U.K. appear to be headed to a December election as parties hope to break the country’s political stalemate over Brexit, which has gripped British politics for more than three years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for a Dec. 12 vote in the hopes he can win a majority and force his Brexit plan through the House of Commons. The Conservatives currently hold 288 seats in the House of Commons after losing their majority in September.
For a majority of one the Tories would need to secure 326 seats or 322 for a working majority.
Johnson’s latest deal, which included scrapping the controversial Irish backstop and replacing it with a new trade regime, was rejected by MPs in 322-306 vote as Parliament wanted more time to scrutinize the bill.
Johnson has previously said he would deliver Brexit by Oct. 31 “do or die,” but was forced to request an extension from the EU after MPs failed to approve his revised deal. The EU has granted a revised deadline of Jan. 31.
Kurt Huebner, a professor of European studies at the University of British Colombia, said the upcoming election will be fought on the question of “leaving or remaining.”
“The bottom line is Johnson needs to win a clear majority if he wants Brexit to move forward,” Huebner said. “The worst-case scenario for Johnson would be again a kind of minority.”
With Brexit fears delayed until the New Year, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his opposition party would vote in favour of a general election.
Corbyn has said his party would renegotiate a Brexit deal that would maintain a single market relationship with the EU and then put the decision to leave or remain in the hands of voters with a second referendum.
“For the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met,” Corbyn said. “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
However, given the polling in the U.K., some inside the Labour Party have feared facing the electorate would see their 244 MPs dramatically reduced.
The Britain Elects poll tracker, which aggregates opinion polls, showed Sunday that the Conservative Party was well ahead with roughly 35 per cent of the vote.
Labour was second with 25 per cent and the Liberal Democrats third with 18 per cent of the vote. The Brexit Party, a rival to the Conservatives among Brexit supporters, has roughly 11 per cent of the vote and the Green Party has four per cent.
An individual poll of 1,689 people conducted by YouGov and The Times newspaper on Oct. 21-22 found the Conservatives were ahead with 37 per cent of the vote, followed by Labour with 22 per cent and the Liberal Democrats with 19 per cent.
Huebner said that although it’s unlikely, the Labour and Liberal Democrats could work together to form a kind of “remain alliance” to target Conservative seats.
“From a rational perspective, this should be something both parties should go for as they favour a second referendum,” he said.
Other parties that have held pro-remain positions and have campaigned for a second referendum include the Scottish National Party, with 35 MPs, and the Independent Group for Change, consisting of five MPs who defected from the Conservatives and Labour over their positions on Brexit.
Plaid Cymru, a social-democratic party advocating for Welsh independence, wants to remain in the EU and lone Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has also called for the U.K. to remain.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has formally supported the Conservatives in the House of Commons and has favoured leaving the EU. However, it refused to support Johnson’s recent deal over the acceptance of customs checkpoints at ports of entry into Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Brexit Party, currently led by founder Nigel Farage, has pushed for the U.K. to leave the EU without a deal. The party currently holds no seats in the House but has 29 members of European Parliament and four Welsh Assembly members.
Farage has announced 50 candidates in the event of an election and could squeeze Johnson’s Conservatives for votes.
“This is a difficult situation from the right for Boris Johnson and he will have to navigate all of this in just over six weeks,” Huebner said.