Separation anxiety: post-EU politics

Around 10pm last night, YouGov published an unofficial ‘exit poll’ showing the Remain campaign ahead by 6%. In response to this, journalists were quick to announce that the Leave campaign team were secretly conceding, and its own election party had a grim atmosphere surrounding it. Just 12 hours later Britain had voted to leave the EU, David Cameron had resigned as Prime Minister, Scotland faced a second referendum, and a motion of no confidence had been submitted on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Great Britain, it seems, has become a political warzone.

So what now for politics in the UK? First of all, the Conservatives will need to address their leadership situation. With David Cameron announcing his intention to depart by October, all eyes will now be on the likely candidates to succeed him. Early front runners include Boris Johnson, the lead figure of the Leave campaign; and Theresa May, the current Home Secretary, who interestingly kept a low profile throughout the referendum campaign. There are, of course, other less high-profile names being mentioned who may bring forward a new era for the Conservatives: Anna Soubry, the current Small Business Minister and MP for Broxtowe has been suggested as a leading moderate figure; whilst Priti Patel, the pro-Leave Employment Minister, has been touted by some as a leader in waiting. Whatever happens, the Conservative Party is in a state of flux, which will mean the Government may have one hand off the wheel for the next few weeks.

Labour politicians have also started their own leadership battle as two senior MPs, Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey, have tabled a no confidence motion in Jeremy Corbyn. This means that the Party’s MPs could decide next week to remove their leader and spark an election for his successor. This will go down with the Party’s membership: Jeremy Corbyn was elected in 2015 with huge support coming from grassroots members, many of whom joined Labour especially to vote for him. It can therefore be assumed Mr Corbyn will not go gently and, as such, the attention of the Labour Party will unlikely be focused on providing effective opposition in Parliament and instead looks inwards to yet another political scrap between its various warring factions.

Finally, the big winners from this political mess could very well be Nigel Farage and Nicola Sturgeon. The former will see a gigantic opportunity for UKIP, which has made its sole purpose to remove Britain from the EU. It will be interesting to see whether UKIP will grow as the UK negotiates its exit from Europe, or vanishes into irrelevance as people view its one mission accomplished. As for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, the Scottish First Minister has already announced an intention to seek a second referendum for Scottish independence, which could very well see the break-up of the United Kingdom. Support for Remain was huge beyond the border, and this will be used by the SNP to convince voters to back an independent Scotland, meaning Brexit could very well lead to the end of the United Kingdom.

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