We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.

May 13, 2019

Brexit Party has already changed UK politics

In contrast to several UK commentators we have been arguing persistently that the probability of a no-deal Brexit remains elevated, and our view has not changed for a long time. The main risk is not an accident at the European Council, though views are shifting in the direction of Emmanuel Macron. The main risk is different: a shift in the political consensus in the UK that would make a no-deal outcome possible.

Over the weekend there were two opinion polls that managed to produce a dynamic of their own. The first is an Opinium survey for the Observer, according to which the Brexit Party is set to become the overall winner of the European elections on May 23 with 34% of the votes. Labour is a distant second with 21%, the LibDems get 12%, and the Tories 11%. A ComRes poll has the Brexit Party with a smaller lead of 27% versus Labour's 25%. But we note that the shift in voter preference towards the Brexit Party is fairly recent, and ongoing. Nigel Farage gets more media airtime than any other candidate for the European Parliament, and the Change UK party is completely non-existent. The LibDems are having a relatively good time with their "bollocks to Brexit" campaign. But this is a race between a united Brexit Party and a disunited Labour Party.  

Even though the Tories are expecting to lose the European elections, these figures still come as a shock to them. Another opinion poll showed that the Brexit Party is ahead of the Tories even on for national elections, at 20% versus 19%. Obviously the Tories will not go into the next elections with Theresa May as leader. We have no doubt that the Tories will end up electing a eurosceptic as their next leader simply because this is what it will take to neutralise Farage's challenge. His Brexit Party greatly benefits from the system of proportional representation in the European elections, but he will not be nearly as strong in a national poll.

We believe the Tories are very likely to have a new leader in place for the party conference in late September. That new leader would then attend the European Council in October. It is possible, indeed likely, that the UK parliament will try to spring another Cooper bill with a narrow majority, but a prime minister hell-bent on a no-deal Brexit has several wrecking tools at his or her disposal, such as an orchestrated House of Lords filibuster or the prorogation of parliament. Tory candidates are confronted by angry constituents over their failure to deliver Brexit. Can we really rule out a political calculus that the next prime minister would deliver a hard Brexit in October, and then make way for new elections in the spring of 2020 once the initial shock of a hard Brexit is absorbed?

The FT reports that the latest opinion polls have hardened the readiness of the Tories to put the knife into Theresa May. The date to watch out for is this Thursday, the next meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 committee, which May is due to address. The committee wants her to give a binding departure date, Brexit or no Brexit. The possible rule change in relation to the 12-month reprieve for a leader after a confidence vote is still in the cards, but we don't think it will come to that. 

We would like to end with the following two observations. In the British first-past-the-post voting system, you can win an election with 35% or 40% of the votes, depending on the other parties. If a new Tory leader manages to unite the pro-Brexit vote, there is a chance they would get to such a level. 

We also noted a comment in Die Welt, which interprets the rise of the Brexit Party as confirmation of the referendum and concludes that hopes of a Brexit reversal have been delusional. If Farage's Party were to win the European elections in a landslide, we would expect opinion within the European Council to shift further. Macron will get his I-told-you-so moment.

Show Comments Write a Comment

May 13, 2019

Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait

It is going to be interesting to watch how Donald Trump handles Viktor Orbán’s first visit to the White House today, the first by a Hungarian PM in over twenty years. On the face of it, no other EU head of government is ideologically as close to Trump as Orbán. And yet, surprisingly, Orbán had to wait for his invitation to meet Trump for over two years, which made him as the NYT reports the last central European leader to be invited to the White House. In dealing with Orbán, the political concerns of the traditional Washington establishment had until now won over Trumpism. The NYT mentions the presence and influence Orbán has granted Moscow and Beijing, concerns over the authoritarianism in Orbán’s Hungary, and other critiques uniting Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress.

However, the first two years of Trump in the White House have shown that the president loves to ignore the Washington establishment consensus and relishes to provoke cross-party dismay by going his own way in foreign policy. Orbán may have had to wait a painfully long time for his invitation, but Trump’s welcome could well be all the more effusive for it. We would not rule out that the unfolding of an Orbán-Trump political lovefeast, if it comes to that, will further hasten Orbán's exit from the EPP.

Show Comments Write a Comment

May 13, 2019

Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears

On a trip to Brussels earlier this month, Marine Le Pen appealed to both Hungary’s Fidesz and Poland’s PiS to join into what she and Matteo Salvini hope will be a grand alliance of all national populists in the next European Parliament. How Viktor Orbán will respond is open at this stage, even if his exit from the EPP looks increasingly certain. The likely response of the PiS is another matter. As recent comments by senior party officials and the PiS’ current campaign for the EU elections show, the party leadership has come to the conclusion that its remaining power and share of the electorate are threatened if voters begin to think that the PiS might even inadvertently trigger Plexit. It is not just the UK example which is a turn-off. The rural PiS electorate is conscious that EU membership is the best guarantor for Poland’s agriculture. The euro might be unpopular in Poland, and EU federalism suspect for Polish conservatives, but EU membership is part of modern Poland's raison d’Etat.

Some of the parties that have already decided to enter the alliance with Salvini are far too wobbly or, like the Rassemblement National, deliberately opaque on the question of whether the EU should be reformed or dismantled. This represents a potentially serious liability for the PiS. Add to this the fact that PiS sees itself in the tradition of Jozef Pilsudski, Poland’s answer to De Gaulle and a conservative who battled against the extreme right. The unlikelihood of the PiS sharing a political bed with the AfD and similar parties becomes apparent, even without PiS concerns about the proximity of Salvini and Le Pen to Russia.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.


Recent News

  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • May 25, 2018
  • Rejected by US, Germany is turning towards China...
  • ...and France is turning to Russia
  • UK ties Galileo to security partnership
  • Germans are discovering miniBoTs
  • September 14, 2017
  • Bravo Mr Juncker
  • ... what he said about the labour market
  • ... and what his speech means for Brexit
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • December 02, 2019
  • Will pension reform protests spiral out of control?
  • Malta's PM resigns over murder case
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • September 12, 2018
  • It is easy to criticise Chequers but very hard to come up with an alternative
  • February 05, 2018
  • How big is Germany's external surplus, really?
  • Macron's first election test
  • Coeure's endorsement of a fiscal union
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • September 21, 2018
  • SPD ministers want to continue grand coalition
  • March 28, 2018
  • The real reason for the sanctions against Russia
  • Wishful thinking: Brexit edition
  • Wishful thinking: Future of euro edition
  • Wishful thinking: Italy edition
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 24, 2020
  • Is Germany anti-semitic and racist?
  • Did the Greek financial crisis play a role in Brexit?
  • September 18, 2019
  • No doubt, this is a constitutional crisis
  • Macron's immigration bid
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • December 22, 2017
  • Will Macron be the new de Gaulle?
  • 2018 through the looking glass
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • April 20, 2017
  • Don’t bet on Trump turning globalist
  • A note on UK election polls
  • December 20, 2016
  • The politics of terror
  • On Lagarde
  • Is a disruptive Brexit possible?
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 13, 2020
  • Libya - the new playground for diplomatic posturing
  • NI has a government at last
  • December 23, 2019
  • What’s behind the NordStream2 sanctions
  • An important ruling by the Dutch constitutional court
  • This time Popolare di Bari brings EU bank resolution into question
  • The reversal of the eurozone external balances
  • No Christmas truce in France
  • Brace for Erdogan's foreign policy ambitions
  • On the decline of the centrist left
  • December 03, 2019
  • What to look out for in the last week of the compaign
  • Trump threatens tariffs on French luxury exports
  • November 14, 2019
  • Are France and Germany finally converging on security policy? We think they might.
  • October 27, 2019
  • German political centre is melting
  • Train drivers in all-out confrontation with Macron
  • Erdogan makes threats again
  • October 10, 2019
  • What if UK parliament rejects both elections and the second referendum?
  • Should Europeans really look forward to President Warren?
  • September 24, 2019
  • Corbyn’s sweet victory, and why it matters
  • Redistributing migrants rescued from sea - a first step
  • September 09, 2019
  • Chances of no-deal are rising and rising
  • Resist the beginnings
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 29, 2019
  • No-deal Brexit is no longer just a scenario
  • No German warships to the Strait of Hormuz
  • July 18, 2019
  • Will Johnson's first action on coming to office be to call elections?
  • EU Commission will monitor rule of law in all member states
  • Dijsselbloem, not Carney, is the European frontrunner for the IMF job
  • July 08, 2019
  • Instex, forever around the corner?
  • Why Rory Stewart is not really what Remainers should be looking for
  • June 26, 2019
  • How would the EU react to Do-or-Die?
  • Merkel Procrastinates? Surely not.
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • June 03, 2019
  • Reinventing the French right without Wauquiez
  • Tory leadership election is between feasible and unfeasible Brexit options
  • May 28, 2019
  • Greens in EP boosted by numbers and national politics
  • May 23, 2019
  • ...twere well it were done quickly
  • The Tsipras-Mitsotakis duel dominates EP campaign in Greece
  • May 20, 2019
  • Far right on the march
  • A plot against the EU - a new weapon to stop Le Pen?
  • May 16, 2019
  • Will the social democrats try to block Weber with an anti-EPP alliance?
  • EU elections in Germany stunningly undramatic
  • Macron moves to the electoral frontline
  • May 14, 2019
  • Trump gives Orbán his blessing
  • Outcome of Belgium's parliament election on Sunday totally open
  • Has Trump really got the economics of trade all wrong?