2019 forecast: Brexit and British politics

The looming Brexit deadline will add stress to an already chaotic situation.

Britain’s exit from the EU continues to face major disruption. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled all year to secure a deal with the EU that the British parliament would back. But hard Brexiteers in her own party steadfastly refuse any compromise Brexit, with many willing to support a no-deal outcome. A crucial parliamentary vote on May’s latest preferred deal scheduled for December 12 was postponed on the basis that she could not secure enough votes for it to pass. May has stated she will seek more concessions from the EU in the hope of winning over her rebellious backbenchers.

Regardless of her negotiating skills, May faces a tough battle to secure support across parliament. Labour seeks a Brexit that retains close relations with the EU, possibly by remaining in the Customs Union. The opposition also wants a new election, which they are expected to win, so they can put their plan into action. The Greens and Scottish Nationalists — firm Remainers — are seeking another referendum to reverse Brexit altogether. May’s government depends on support from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists, which will not countenance any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK.

The EU is refusing to make any further changes to the plan. Parliament must agree to a deal by January 21, when Britain is required to make a statement about what it intends to do about Brexit going forward. Two months later, the UK will be out of the EU, deal or no deal, unless the Brexit decision is reversed. For the latter to occur, May would likely have to resign. However, there is no clear candidate to succeed her. The hard Brexiteers have the numbers to frustrate May’s plans but not to replace her as PM. Unless tectonic plates move within the ruling conservatives, May will likely remain in office. But given the impasse with the EU, and her steadfast refusal to allow a no-deal Brexit, she will likely need to reach across the aisle and persuade opposition MPs to support her deal.