Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.K. Election Is Expected To Define A Generation


In Britain, people will vote tomorrow in what's being called an election that could define a generation. At stake is the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union, basically the question of Brexit - if and how it will happen. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping his Conservative Party gets a majority in Parliament because that would give him a better chance of getting a Brexit deal approved. Georgina Wright is a Brexit researcher at the Institute for Government, which is a think tank in London. Good morning.

GEORGINA WRIGHT: Good morning.

KING: OK, so to what extent has Brexit dominated this national campaign?

WRIGHT: Well, I certainly think this has been a Brexit election. I think it's really important to remember the context of this general election. So we know that in October, the prime minister went back to Brussels, renegotiated a deal, but he simply didn't have the votes in Parliament to pass that deal. So the prime minister really wanted to call this election to increase his majority and then, that way, break the Brexit deadlock.

So absolutely, Brexit has been at the forefront of the general election, but I think there have been other concerns as well. People are thinking about education. People are thinking about health service. So it will be really interesting to see how people cast their votes tomorrow.

KING: Let's talk about this slogan that Conservatives have been using - get Brexit done. Boris Johnson seemed to be taking a gamble that if he could get a majority in Parliament, it would be that simple or, hopefully, more simple than it has been for him. Will it be that easy if he gets that majority?

WRIGHT: Look; I mean, I think here's the catch, really - the prime minister certainly needs a majority to be able to pass his Brexit legislation smoothly through Parliament, but this Brexit legislation only concerns the so-called divorce deal. We haven't begun negotiating our future deal with the EU. So our trade relationship, our security partnership - all of that still needs to be negotiated.

Now, the EU have said, look - you can - you, the U.K., can remain part of our market. This would avoid a cliff edge while we negotiate. But that period, that window for negotiations, is only 11 months. And if you consider that the U.K. and the EU took over two years to negotiate the divorce deal, will 11 months be sufficient to negotiate what will be a far more complex negotiation?

KING: That's interesting. I mean, you know, one of the things that's notable here is that Boris Johnson has failed to deliver on his promise of getting the U.K. out of the EU, but he's still ahead in the polls against his main rival, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And we should note, the polls are not always accurate. But how is Corbyn handling the issue of Brexit during this campaign?

WRIGHT: I mean, that's an excellent question. There was a poll last night that shows that, actually, the sort of the difference between the Conservative and the Labour Party is narrowing. So it will be interesting to see, actually, the outcome of the election tomorrow. But I think Labour's - sort of the Labour Party's position on Brexit is interesting.

Now, they think that the so-called divorce deal is a bad one. And they have said, if you put us in power, we will renegotiate with the EU a new Brexit deal in the next three months, and then we will give you, the voters, the option to vote on this deal that we've renegotiated or that you could, you know, choose to remain in the EU. So they would renegotiate a deal, and then there would be a second referendum. Of course, the problem is there's huge Brexit fatigue. And their message isn't as clear as the message of the Conservative Party, which is we will get Brexit done.

KING: Brexit fatigue - so when we hear that people in Britain just want Brexit over with, that that has some truth to it.

WRIGHT: Oh, absolutely. And I think, you know, there's not just Brexit fatigue in the U.K.; there's also Brexit fatigue in the EU. It's a huge moment for the EU. They have this new EU commission. And there's still lots of uncertainty about what's going to happen.

KING: Yeah.

WRIGHT: And so everything remains to be seen tomorrow.

KING: Georgina Wright with the Institute for Government in London. Thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "HOURGLASS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.