Abandoning Brexit referendum ‘political suicide’ for Conservatives

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May © Facundo Arrizabalaga
If UK PM Theresa May tries to get new Euroskeptic MPs through a general election, they will vote for Brexit and probably a more hard-line Brexit, Richard Wellings from the Institute of Economic Affairs told RT.

The UK High Court created a stir on Thursday went it ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May won't be able to trigger Brexit procedures without consulting British parliament first.

The announcement sparked anger among Brexit supporters.

RT: What's your reaction to the ruling? Should Parliament be given a voice here?

Richard Wellings: Obviously there is a lot of anger about this, because before the referendum the government very clearly promised in black and white that it would uphold and implement the results. Also, I worry that this could delay or water down the Brexit process and delay the very large potential economic benefits from removing all this very costly EU regulation.

RT: Downing Street said it's going to appeal the decision. Do you think the outcome will be different?

RW: Well, it is very difficult to know. I’m not a lawyer. But I think if it remains the same outcome, this is a huge problem for Theresa May, because probably around three-quarters of MPs are in favor of remaining in the EU. Having said that, this would be political suicide for definitely the Conservatives and probably Labour to go against the referendum result given the huge popular support for it, even in a lot of very safe Labour constituencies. So I think the more likely outcome is that it makes a soft Brexit a lot more likely. That is going to be very disappointing if we get a lot of EU regulations remaining, effectively going down the Norway route.

RT:  There are fears MPs may now try to block or delay triggering Article 50. How much uncertainty does this mean for Brexit?

RW: Obviously, that is a huge risk. The other option for Theresa May would be to call a general election and try and get a larger majority for it. There’s a dilemma because she is on the left of the Conservative Party. If she tries to get new Euroskeptic MPs through a general election, they will vote for Brexit and probably for more of a hard-line Brexit. That could undermine her long-term support within the Conservative Party (...)

RT:  There is speculation that there is a no-Brexit option as well. Do you think that is a real possibility now, and how much public anger could that spark?

RW: I think abandoning Brexit is pretty unlikely, because around 70 percent of Conservative voters voted to leave the EU, which means it would be very difficult for the Conservatives to renege on it, particularly given the huge difficulties they’ve had with this divide with the Euroskeptics versus the Europhiles. So they can potentially tear the Conservative Party apart. It is also very difficult for Labor, because a lot of these harder Labor constituencies in the North of England also voted for Brexit as well. It would be hugely disappointing for those Labor supporters if the Labor Party turned around and said: “We’re not going to respect your vote.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.