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This Vote Will Go Down In History As 'The Brexit Election'

07/06/2017 16:52 | Updated 08 June 2017
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When the British public head to the polls this week they will not only be voting for a UK government, knowingly or not, they will also be voting for what kind of Brexit we will see.

Just short of a year since the landmark referendum result, the political landscape has shifted significantly and Britain again finds itself on the brink of voting for what kind of relationship it will have with the European Union in the future.

Since nearly 52 per cent of those who voted in the 'Brexit' referendum signalled their desire to withdraw from the EU we've seen resignations, leadership contests, a new Prime Minister, a cabinet cull, failed coups and a shadow cabinet reshuffle so long I'm not entirely sure whether or not it's still ongoing today.

The referendum really shook things up and whichever way you look at it, Thursday's election will be remembered as 'the Brexit election'.

Prime Minister Theresa May cited Brexit as the major reason for calling the snap election when she made the announcement back in April and the issue has been a key fighting ground over the campaign period with polarised views coming from political parties.

May herself has shifted her overall messaging from that of strong and stable leadership to positioning herself as the only person capable of conducting Brexit negotiations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has focussed on the need to secure a trade deal and access to the Single Market in his discussions on Brexit. While Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made outright opposition to Brexit and the desire for a second referendum the cornerstones of his campaign.

While debates continue on key issues like the NHS, education, welfare and pay, there are few elections in British history which are so tied up and interconnected with one specific issue.

The economic and trading future of the country will be dependent on any deal secured with the EU - if one is indeed secured. The thorny issue of immigration and freedom of movement will be influenced by any ongoing relationship. Business laws, working directives, human rights, university programmes, funding for projects are all also among the many things that will be directly influenced by negotiations.

In light of the tragic events in London and Manchester over the last two weeks, even approaches to terror and security are inextricably linked to Brexit talks and how surveillance and information will be shared between Britain and member states following its withdrawal.

So what are we likely to see? If Theresa May secures a majority then 'Hard Brexit' will definitely be on the cards. The size of the majority will dictate quite how much flexibility there is on this, but given the language used in the campaigns, a large majority will be seen as a mandate for Hard Brexit and the possibility of withdrawing from the EU with no trade deal.

A Conservative minority government will likely see significant concessions made and could potentially trigger another early general election. A Conservative-led coalition has the potential to take completely different turns, with the Lib Dems and UKIP their most likely partners - yet again this could also trigger another early general election.

Partner with UKIP and the Hard Brexit will be delivered, join forces with the Lib Dems and a second referendum would be in the offing and views on the freedom of movement could well be softened.

A Labour majority or Labour-led coalition would see the UK bid to stay in the Single Market, a meaningful parliamentary vote on the terms of the negotiation deal and the potential for a second referendum if allied with the Lib Dems, SNP and/or the Green Party.

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So despite the referendum result almost 12 months ago, there is much about Brexit which remains completely unresolved and which could well hinge on the way the vote goes on Thursday.

Any significant deviation from the polls has the potential to trigger the kind of chain reaction the referendum vote itself led to as leaders and parties scramble to react to the viewpoints of the public and the landscape laid out before them.

We've heard many times that 'Brexit means Brexit' but with negotiations with the EU scheduled to start just 11 days after the vote, in the next two weeks we should all be clearer on what Brexit really means.

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