With the local elections behind us, Brexit is back at the forefront of the political agenda. The impending European Parliament elections are likely to serve as a quasi-referendum on Brexit, as the public look to punish both main parties for the impasse. The unpopularity of both the government and opposition has not gone unnoticed, however, as the prime minister announced last week that she will soon table her departure. Theresa May is all but done in leading the country through Brexit, but the question remains - what will happen next?
In the wake of the rising Brexit party and what are set to be crippling European Parliament elections this Thursday for the Conservatives, the 1922 Committee has moved quickly to force Theresa May to lay out her plans for stepping down. Last week, the prime minister announced that after another vote on her Brexit deal she will begin the Tory leadership contest to select her successor.
Boris Johnson has been waiting in the wings for this moment, and it was inevitable that he would throw his hat into the ring once a leadership contest looked likely. Unsurprisingly, he has formally announced his intention to run and is now polling as the leading candidate to replace Theresa May.
This leadership contest could well be a messy affair however, as it is expected that many Conservatives will be looking to take part in the race. For the Tory that gets the top job, it is not entirely clear what they will win. If anything the role of PM seems like a poisoned chalice at the moment.
Not EU again
Despite an inevitable defeat in this week's elections and pressure to step down from her post, the prime minister is undeterred in her approach to Brexit. She has announced that in two weeks an improved Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be voted on in parliament, promising it will be a 'bold offer'. The PM is undoubtedly hoping that success amongst pro-leave parties in the European Parliament elections and these new measures will be enough to pass her Brexit deal; however it is unlikely that fourth time's the charm.
New proposals by the PM will almost certainly exclude a confirmatory vote, which many MPs now see as a requirement for passing any Brexit legislation. Cross-party talks have also failed to provide a solution for the government, as talks collapsed last week with no agreement having been secured. As a result, although MPs will be looking intently at the PM's new offering, it is unlikely that the deal will be different enough to gain a majority. This vote is therefore not only the last chance for the UK to enact Brexit before the European Parliament sits in July, but also the last chance saloon for Theresa May.
2019 European Parliament elections
On 23 May, UK voters will select 73 candidates to represent them in the European Parliament. It has become very clear over the past few weeks that the Brexit Party will be the big winner of these elections. The latest YouGov poll predicts Nigel Farage's party will receive 35% of the vote, more than both Labour and the Tories combined. In fact, the Conservatives are currently polling fifth with just 9% of the voting share, behind both the Lib Dems and the Greens. If true, it would represent the worst national election result in the history of the Conservative Party.
The polls are clearly a direct response to the Brexit deadlock, with both main parties paying the price. The Brexit party are set to win seats from leave-voters from across the political spectrum, with UKIP scraping just 3% in the polls.
Pro-remain parties will also struggle to match the Brexit party, with their votes spread amongst four parties. The decision not to form a 'remain alliance' between the Greens, Lib Dems and Change UK has hindered the ability of these groups to create a unified opposition to the Brexit Party. However, the parties may still do relatively well individually as a result of protest votes against both Labour and the Conservatives, with a potential Lib Dem fightback on the cards.
So what does this all mean? Well, undoubtedly the European Parliament elections are being framed as an opinion poll on Brexit, and it looks likely that both main parties will lose out as a result. It will also come as no comfort that the decline of mainstream parties is set to be reflected across Europe during these elections. It is therefore likely that the Brexit party will continue to thrive until Brexit itself is delivered - one way or another.