Following the High Court’s ruling on Article 50, is an early general election now a distinct possibility?

Alex Morton and Olly Kendall
Theresa May
The Article 50 ruling has thrown the government's plans into chaos (Source: Getty)

Alex Morton, director at Field Consulting, says Yes.

Prime Minister Theresa May should call a general election in the spring, and the High Court ruling gives her even more of an excuse to do so.

The UK economy is going to turn in the next few years, regardless of Brexit. By 2017, we will be eight years on from the end of the last recession. The fiscal position is weak. Regardless of whether or not you think Brexit will be positive in the long term, by 2018-19, leaving the EU will mean more uncertainty, higher inflation and likely greater borrowing costs.

For May’s administration to succeed, it needs a strong hand at the Brexit negotiations overseas, combined with major domestic reforms which can boost growth at home. With a working majority now of eight MPs in the House of Commons, none in the Lords, and a weakening economy over the next few years, May currently looks unable to deliver either.

Without an election, she risks failure. An election would strengthen her hand abroad and at home against enemies both internal and external to the Tory party.

Olly Kendall, managing director and founder of Westminster Public Affairs, says No.

The government will appeal the High Court’s decision, so there still may not be a vote on Article 50 in Parliament. And even if it loses its legal challenge, MPs will still probably back the government's decision to trigger Article 50.

What is likely, however, is that Theresa May will now have to share some element of the UK’s negotiating position, otherwise it’s just a vote on timing, not substance. Granted if it is interpreted as a “hard Brexit”, then just maybe MPs might be more willing to vote it down, but Labour’s position to “scrutinise not block” makes that highly improbable, plus there’d need to be a Tory rebellion.

But if MPs were, hypothetically, to defeat the government, then what? The Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires a vote of two thirds of MPs (at least 434) to dissolve Parliament. To achieve this, the Prime Minister would have to whip her own MPs to vote for an early election.

Things would have to be pretty dire for that to happen. So, there’s little chance we’re going to the polls before 2020.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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