Amid the impacts of Brexit comes another that hits close to home which could have a huge effect on the next election. According to a group of members of Parliament, pursuing a hard Brexit could cost the Tories the majority the next time the Brits head to the polls.
Hard vs. Soft Brexit
The major concern in shifting politics comes down to whether a hard or soft Brexit is enforced. The differentiation between a hard and soft Brexit is loose, but both terms relate to the relationship between the EU and the UK after Britain leaves. On one side, a hard Brexit would distance the UK from the EU by removing it from open trading and free movement between other EU member countries. The implications are unsure, but a hard Brexit would likely lead to tariffs and trade restrictions between the UK and EU members, a stark contrast to the free trade enjoyed while the UK was in the EU.
Conversely, a soft Brexit keeps the UK connected to the EU in some manner, perhaps as a member of the EU single market. In exchange, the UK would likely agree to a degree of free movement to allow migrants from other EU countries to the UK. The UK would also likely receive some free trade benefits, though not to the full extent that it did as a full EU member.
Pressure From Both Sides
Until the details are finalized and announced, lobbyists and representatives from the entire political spectrum are making their voices heard to influence the outcome of Brexit. Talks as to the details of Brexit are still underway and are heavily guarded, but some sources are saying Prime Minister Theresa May is encouraging officials to work towards a gray Brexit that would act as a sort of compromise between the hard and soft Brexit supporters.
Within her own cabinet, May is being pressured. One of the most pressing issues is from people who support letting in thousands of low-skilled EU immigrants every year. A hard Brexit would stop free movement, but officials in the UK worry about labor shortages in a number of industries. Migrants from other EU countries have long come to the UK to work in industries like construction, healthcare, or agriculture. Without the influx of tens of thousands of EU employees, there could be major labor shortages throughout the country. However, May has long opposed the idea and is working to lower annual net migration after Brexit.
Though the immigration issue is one of the largest challenges facing the transition, many other issues have arisen that showcase the difficulty of negotiating through uncharted waters that have major political ramifications.
A group of Tory MPs have warned that a hard Brexit could alienate a core group of Conservative voters and cost the party the next election. Although Theresa May and many other Conservatives supported Brexit, a moderate core of party voters did not. If May gets pushed into a hard Brexit, the worry is that the moderate Conservatives who voted against Brexit will leave the party and cause a major political upheaval.
The warning from inside Parliament comes after the Liberal Democrats overcame a large Conservative majority to win a recent election in Richmond. The campaign was largely centered around the issue of Brexit, which is believed to have played a large role in swaying thousands of voters from voting for Zac Goldsmith, a former Conservative Party member now running as an independent. Many Tories hope the election serves as a wake-up call of the effect Brexit can still have on elections, especially for Conservatives.
“The Conservative Party needs to be alert that there is a moderate core of Conservative voters, who voted Remain, and who want to hear the Conservative government speaking above the noise of the Brexiters”, five prominent politicians recently wrote in the Observer newspaper. “They do not want the Conservative Party to be UKIP-lite, nor to hear that their desire for a negotiated Brexit, with all options open for the Prime Minister, is an attempt to delay the process or simply an expression of remaining.”
Brexit negotiations could continue for months, but the effects from these talks will be felt for years. The changing political scene in the country could make the next election unlike anything that has ever been seen in the UK.