The authoritative source for independent research on UK-EU relations

31 Oct 2018

Politics and Society

The UK in a Changing Europe’s Brexit Policy Panel (BPP) is a cross-disciplinary group of more than 100 academics from across the social sciences. It was created to provide ongoing analysis of where we have got to in the Brexit process, and to forecast where we are headed.

Members of the BPP complete a monthly survey addressing three key areas of uncertainty around Brexit: if – and when – the UK will leave the EU; how Brexit will affect British politics; and what our relationship with the EU is likely to look like in the future.

As the end of the Article 50 period approaches, there appears to be greater certainty about where we are headed:

  • A ‘Canada Style’ deal is viewed as the most probable outcome, and increasingly so. 58% of our experts view this as the most likely outcome, an increase of 16 percentage points from last month’s survey.
  • 91% of our experts think Theresa May will in office to see Brexit through. However, the consensus is that she will no longer be in office come the current date for the end of the transition period – 7 out of 10 (71%) think she will be gone by December 2020.
  • The panel think the parliamentary arithmetic in the House of Commons is in the balance: overall, they give Theresa May a 53% chance of getting her deal through the House of Commons.
  • Our panel now think that checks in Ireland will be ‘East-West’ (40%) rather than ‘North-South’ (29%). Only 22% think there will be no checks. Last month, the expectation was that the principal checks would be ‘North-South’.
  • The perceived likelihood of the UK leaving with no deal has barely shifted. The dial has moved from giving a no-deal outcome a 46% to a 45% chance.
  • 60% of our experts think a deal will be made between the UK and the EU by the end of December 2018.
  • Our panel have changed their view on Labour’s Brexit position: the BPP now thinks it is more likely than not that the Labour Party will come out in support of a referendum before 29 March 2019.
  • Our panel give just under a 1 in 3 chance of a further referendum on EU membership – giving the odds as 3.1 out of 10

The Brexit Choices

Our panel think a ‘Canada-Style’ deal has become significantly more likely in the last month. Nearly two-thirds (58%) of our experts think this is now the most likely outcome.

Experts think the dynamics of the Irish question have reversed. Last month, the panel felt that the border was most likely to be ‘North-South’ (36%) – between Northern Ireland and the Republic – rather than ‘East-West’ (28%). Now, there is a growing consensus that ‘East-West’ checks are more likely: 40% think the border will be ‘East-West’, compared to 29% that expect the principal checks to be ‘North-South’.

Where there is less consensus is on future customs arrangements. Our panel assigned a roughly equal likelihood to the three options: pursuing a free-trade deal with the EU that precludes customs union membership (34%), reaching a bespoke agreement on collecting customs duties (30%) or the UK remaining a member of a customs union (26%).

Will May Survive?

Two big questions will hang over Theresa May’s Premiership: will she be able to get her Brexit deal past Parliament, and will she still be in post come ‘Brexit Day’ on 29 March 2019.

On the first question, there is no clear view among experts. 46% of experts think it is likely that Theresa May will win the meaningful vote, 22% think it is unlikely and the rest rate the chances as 50:50.

On the second question, there is good news and bad for the Prime Minister. Some 91% of our experts think Theresa May will be able to stay in office to see Brexit through. However, the consensus is that she won’t last long beyond that – 71% think that by December 2020, the date pencilled in for the end of the transition period, she will no longer be in office.

A referendum, an extension of Article 50 – or both?

The uncertain political dynamics of Brexit create two possibilities considered by our experts: an extension of the Article 50 process, and the possibility of a referendum on the terms of any agreement reached by the UK government.

On whether the UK will extend the process, 28% think it is likely that the UK government will request and receive an extension of Article 50 before leaving the EU.

Last month, 32% thought Labour would come out in support of a referendum, and 45% felt it was unlikely that the party would change its view. Following the Labour party conference, the panel’s view has reversed: 41% think Labour will come out for a second vote, 30% remain sceptical that Labour will adopt a pro-referendum position.

However, that doesn’t mean our panel think that a referendum is any more likely to happen. Indeed, they think the chances of a vote before the UK leaves is declining. 11% think another vote is likely, a fall from 19% the previous month – reflecting the tightening deadline, and a Conservative Party set-against another vote on EU membership.

Two key, intertwined question exist about the dynamics in parliament: the panel believes the EU Parliament is highly likely to approve any deal made (an 80% chance), in contrast to the UK Parliament –the panel reckons there is a 53% chance of the House of Commons passing the Brexit deal.

The September BPP expert survey consists of 105 responses from academics in a variety of disciplines across the social sciences, mainly from UK institutions. View the infographics and the graphs. Please find the full list of BPP members here.


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