Ahead of next week’s general election, experts said plans for a third Brexit delay are being openly discussed in Downing Street.
They said Boris Johnson will immediately look to capitalise on a new-found majority by pursuing a delay “to take the pressure off”. The UK is currently set to leave the EU on January 31 next year.
Speaking at a UK in a Changing Europe event at Chatham House in central London on Tuesday, director Prof Anand Menon said: “I am pretty confident that a Tory majority of one gets Brexit done. I am willing to bet that not a single Tory MP votes against Brexit before the end of January.”
Prof Matthew Goodwin added: “If Johnson comes in with a majority, the markets will then assume the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is through.
“There will inevitably be a short-term bounce that will allow Johnson the honeymoon period that he needs to say: ‘Here’s the domestic policy agenda, let’s now get on… and, by the way, I am going to extend because I’m going to take the pressure off, and there’s no point in us rushing to a cliff edge at the end of 2020.’
“I am absolutely convinced he’s going to extend. They are saying openly in private that that’s the plan.”
But Prof Menon said that Mr Johnson’s MPs could immediately run into trouble that would harm the Tories’ future electoral prospects.
“The more successful his electoral strategy is,” he said, “the less credible is Brexit plan becomes.
“If you have got a Tory MP for Wakefield, or Tory MPs across the West Midlands, those are the sort of MPs who if they want to be re-elected in four or five years’ time, are going to be thinking: ‘If we don’t have some sort of customs arrangement with the EU, the manufacturing industries on which our constituencies depend are going to be in a pretty poor shape.’”
For all talk of a Conservative majority, however, Prof Goodwin claimed Tory bosses are now working under the assumption there will be a hung Parliament, amid concerns about Labour’s improving poll ratings and the “20 per cent” of undecided voters.
He said: “What if Jeremy Corbyn wins? How would the markets respond to a Corbyn government? I can only say from my discussions over the last month is that it’s going to have profound effects.
“If we wake up on the morning of December 13 and we have a hung Parliament, with Johnson unable to cobble together a coalition and [the country] heading into a Labour coalition, money is going to start leaving this country very quickly.
“We are going to see economic effects that will put the discussions that we’ve had until now [about a Corbyn government] in context. A lot of the plans are not fiscally credible, a lot of the tax proposals are going to drive a lot of people out of the City.”
Even if Labour suffers a heavy defeat, Prof Goodwin said Mr Corbyn’s grip on the party will remain.
“Corbynism is not an electoral project,” he said. “Corbynism is an ideological project.
“Even if it suffers a second defeat, even if the Labour Party is staring at monumental losses across the one group it was founded to represent - the working class - it just stays in place.
“It gradually passes over to Long-Bailey, Pidcock or Thornberry and they say: “We just carry on, and carry on, and carry on.”
He also blasted the “complete failure” of the Liberal Democrat campaign, but added the party still has the potential to build even if it fails to make ground next week.
“The only interesting aspect about this Lib Dem campaign, which has been a complete failure, has been the internal discussion they’ve had about revoke [Article 50]. Can they use revoke to hold together a core vote for them to come out after the election and begin to build a movement that can position itself as an alternative to Corbynism?
Read from Yahoo News UK:
“That’s where [Labour defectors] Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger want to get the Lib Dems to, attracting more Labour moderates once it becomes clear that even if Labour go down with 210 or 211 seats, Corbynism just carries on.”
The UK in a Changing Europe released its “Brexit: the manifestos uncovered” report on Tuesday.