A chaotic Brexit is now more likely thanks to Theresa May’s election cock-up, experts behind a new report into the EU referendum result are warning.
John Curtice, one of the country’s leading political scientists, agreed with colleagues from The UK In A Changing Europe initiative that May now has little room for maneuver in the Brexit talks, having already committed to taking back control of UK borders.
May has also committed to leaving the Single Market, as well as the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Yet if the Prime Minister had achieved a large majority in the election, she would have had more room to water down those commitments in order to achieve a good trade deal during the Brexit talks.
Speaking at the launch of the pamphlet ‘EU Referendum: One Year On’, former Chief Economist at the Cabinet Office Jonathan Portes said the erosion of May’s majority means there is now a greater chance of a “chaotic Brexit” as the UK could leave the EU without securing a trade deal.
Speaking in Kings College London, Portes said: “The probability of a genuine chaotic Brexit with not even an Article 50 deal has probably gone up because of the weakness of Government.
“This Government cannot go for a softish Brexit because that would mean continued immigration.”
Curtice agreed, and said: “This government cannot afford to cave in on immigration.
“It is now even more dependent on delivering on immigration control than it was before the 8th June.”
Anand Menon, the professor who coordinated the pamphlet, could even foresee a scenario where the Brexit talks are going so badly May actually sabotages the negotiations.
He said: “With a minority government Theresa May – let’s say she gets to the end of this process and she’s got a deal – is going to have to make a calculation, and it’s will that deal pass parliament because it will be a harder Brexit than some of her own MPs and the Labour party want.
“If she loses that vote she’s got to go and that’s the end of her premiership.
“At that point I wonder if it’s within her interest to manufacture a breakdown in negotiations just for the sake of personal survival, this is not about the national interest.”
The pamphlet features contributions from more than 30 academics, all analysing the impact of the EU referendum result a year on from the vote.
According to research on what the public wants from the talks, the public back not only a Hard Brexit, but also walking away from negotiations if no progress is being made.
The report says:
“Our survey shows that Leavers are relatively united in preferring the hardest version of Brexit when given a choice. This is driven primarily by a desire to control immigration, to limit the powers of the European Court and to avoid paying any sort of settlement bill to the EU.
“In contrast, Remainers are much more divided: while a small majority favours a so Brexit over a hard Brexit, 40 per cent prefer the latter.
“On the whole, Remainers and Leavers are looking for many of the same things from Brexit: greater sovereignty, good trade arrangements and no settlement bill.
“They differ over the questions of controlling immigration and giving rights to EU citizens resident in the UK.”