A series of charts shows how the election will affect Brexit
In a bombshell intervention experts from Birmingham University said anything but a Conservative victory will see the referendum result being “diluted” in favour of single market membership.
They predict that an unlikely coalition between the Tories and UKIP would deliver the “hardest” Brexit on offer, whilst a pact between Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP would effectively deliver the status quo.
The landmark report, compiled by the university’s Centre for Brexit Studies, was published this afternoon just three days before voters head to the ballot box for an election that will define Britain’s future.
Polls have shown Labour significantly closing the gap on the Conservatives in recent weeks, with some now openly predicting there will be a hung parliament.
One survey published on Sunday showed Mrs May’s lead has been cut to just one per cent, but in a sign of the turbulent nature of this election others have predicted she is ahead by as far as 12 points.
In anticipation of Thursday’s result academics have released their verdict on what six different scenarios will mean for the upcoming Brexit negotiations, ranging from a Tory landslide to a Labour-led coalition.
Centre for Brexit Studies
A Tory majority will see Theresa May proceed with a 'hard Brexit'
Centre for Brexit Studies
However, a Labour victory is likely to see the continuation of free movement
They predict that, in the event of Mrs May winning a majority of 70 seats or more, she will press ahead with a clean Brexit including leaving the single market and customs union and taking back control of our borders.
But if she scores a smaller majority than that, as some polls are suggesting, the PM could be held to ransom by “rebel” MPs – either Remainers or Brexiteers – dissatisfied with the outcome of the negotiations.
The experts say this would lead to a “slim possibility” of a no deal scenario and would almost certainly spark yet another snap election, in 2019, once the talks with Brussels have been completed.
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A third possibility probed is that the Tories fail to win an overall majority but rule as a minority Government, agreeing voting deals with opposition parties on an issue by issue basis.
This, in the academics’ view, would lead to the Lib Dems in particular wielding a lot of power and a “significant watering down” of the Brexit deal, once again leading to a snap election before the end of 2019.
Next, there is the outcome where the Conservatives fail to secure a majority and choose to into coalition with either the Liberal Democrats or Ukip, with drastically different results.
In the event of a Lib Dem-Tory coalition there would be a “softer Brexit deal” with continued free movement and another referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit in 2019.
But in the less likely event of a pact with Ukip – who would have to significantly outperform their polling predictions – Mrs May would press ahead with a “hard Brexit” and leave the single market.
Equally unlikely is the prospect of a Labour majority, even if Mr Corbyn is currently performing well in the poll, but the experts say this eventuality would also lead to a “softer” deal.
Labour has promised to end free movement but has also said it wants to retain single market membership – two incompatible demands – with the academics predicting the left-wing party would likely opt for the latter when push comes to shove.
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Finally, the softest Brexit deal of the lot would come about in the event of an electoral pact between Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP – a prospect Mrs May has described as a “coalition of chaos”.
The Lib Dems and the SNP would both demand that Britain stays in the single market and would insist on a referendum on the final deal, meaning the UK may never end up leaving the bloc at all.
Professor Alex De Ruyter, head of the Centre for Brexit Studies, said: “Brexit is likely to play a key role in how this election pans out, and Theresa May herself has cited it as the main reason for calling the election in the first place.
“What we know is that many of the political parties have vastly different views on Brexit and would take differing approaches into the negotiations with the European Union.
“What we wanted to do, was look at how some of the most likely outcomes of the vote would impact on what kind of Brexit we see and how that will influence trade, immigration and the future political landscape in Britain.”