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April 21, 2017

Are the elections the result of Bregret speculation?

We thought that Patrick Wintour of the Guardian nailed it - one of the best articles on Brexit we have read in the English press. One of the reasons why Theresa May is calling for a general election is to persuade EU leaders that Brexit really means Brexit. It is astonishing to see the remaining number of people who still believe that the UK will ultimately not pull through with it. That’s certainly true within the EU itself, but also in the UK. There is a new campaign by Gina Miller, who launched the legal challenges against Brexit last year and who has now started a crowd-funding campaign to encourage tactical voting in favour of candidates who oppose Brexit.

This has, of course, no chance of success, but the widespread belief in the reversibility of Brexit has become a problem for May. If her EU counterparts believe that Brexit does not mean Brexit, they might miscalculate and withhold agreement of a deal. Wintour notes that an election victory would provide a double-lock for Brexit, reinforcing its democratic legitimacy and eradicating any lingering doubts. Wintour, however, points to Alexis Tsipras’ referendum victory in 2015 as a possible counter-example. We would add that this was an entirely different scenario. Tsipras wanted a bailout. The UK just wants to get out.

There is now a consensus that the early elections will strengthen May’s negotiating position. Philip Stephens notes that the other EU members have their own politics too, and it is not a foregone conclusion that the UK elections will guarantee a deal at the end. He said the odds were now in favour of a deal, but it would be best to see the elections as a step forward, not a great leap.

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