Seven lawmakers quit the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party on Monday, the biggest defection from a major British political party in nearly 40 years and the latest evidence that Brexit is accelerating a realignment of the country’s politics.
“British politics is now well and truly broken,” said Chris Leslie, one of the group. The lawmakers, who are against Brexit, want a second referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union. But Mr. Leslie added that the group’s differences with the Labour leadership “go far deeper than Brexit.” The seven described said they would sit in Parliament as a group of independent lawmakers.
Up to now, the most-recent major defection from a big British political party was in 1981 when a center-left group split from Labour, but the resultant Social Democratic Party failed to maintain momentum and merged with the Liberal Party seven years later. Much like in the U.S., Britain’s voting system tilts politics toward a two-party system and makes it hard for new political movements to thrive.
Lawmakers from across all parties are splintering to form new informal factions who are advocating their preferred flavor of Brexit, with some seeking to prevent it from happening.
A key problem is that the paid up Conservative Party members are often more enthusiastic about Brexit than the Conservative lawmakers who represent them, says Alan Wager, a Research Associate at King’s College London.
Several lawmakers are facing the threat of deselection as their local Conservative associations protest against their anti-Brexit stance. “A schism of some sort is looking increasingly likely,” says Mr. Wager, with a group of either hardened euroskeptics or europhiles breaking away.
This seven-member schism does not change Brexit odds, but it will increase the animosity for a long time to come.
Meanwhile, Theresa May is content to run down the clock. Ironically, so are Remainers who believe it will lead to a new referendum. It won't. One side has to be wrong.
Theresa May hopes that the Remainers will vote with her at the last moment as the lesser of two evils. But she also needs DUP and some sort of cross-party mix to do the same.
I still have no-deal winning, but not by a large margin. Eurointelligence has May's deal winning at the very last moment, by a possibly large margin.
We are all guessing but there remains one known: No-deal Brexit is the default action if the sides cannot agree to anything else.
I believe there is sufficient MP support for the Malthouse Compromise, and I am sure there would be support for it if only May pursued that option. It would giver her tremendous leverage with the EU if she would just come out and say, this is our take-it-or-leave it alternative.
The Malthouse compromise keeps the UK in the customs union for two more years during which the UK and EU would work out a trade agreement.
If May backed the Malthouse Compromise, I believe the EU would come up with a guarantee about the backstop and Theresa May would get her deal after all.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock