Britain Votes

While final week polls appeared to indicate a neck-and-neck race, exit polls released on Thursday evening showed Britain’s Conservative Party may have gained ground at the polls in the country’s general election. While it remains unclear how wide (or narrow) their margin will be, analysts believe the results signal Britain’s departure from a two-party nation as the Conservative and Labour parties have seen their influence wane.

“Their dominance is partly threatened by the emergence of the far-right UKIP and the Greens as serious vote-getters, and by the strength of the Scottish National Party — which has bounced back from defeat after last year’s independence referendum and is expected to win a near sweep of the 59 seats north of the border.

“Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have seen their popularity plummet since they took on the two-party system in the 2010 election to secure a junior-partner role in the Conservative-led government,” reports The Global Post.

With Cameron on course toward victory, the issue of Britain’s membership in the European Union is likely to dominate the coming year because he promised a referendum by the end of 2017 as a way to appeal to far-right voters.

“The assessment here is that the U.K. leaving would be not only an economic loss, but also a political and geopolitical loss,” says Guntram B. Wolff, director of Bruegel, a research institute in Brussels.

In a recent analysis, the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German research institute, predicted that, economically, Britain itself would suffer the most from a departure. But it concluded that “the combination of economic and political disadvantages of the U.K. exiting the EU would be detrimental to everyone involved.”

Britain has in recent years shown a desire to withdraw from both the world stage and from the European Union, says Clive Crook, and that is unlikely to change.

“For the time being, anyway, the U.K. will have more pressing questions to address. The issue of Scottish independence, far from being settled by last year’s referendum, will return with a vengeance when the Scots send a big delegation of anti-U.K. representatives to Westminster — big enough, perhaps, to lock the Tories out of power. Voting reform will re-appear on the agenda. Constitutional innovations such as “English votes for English laws” will have to be considered. The outlook is frantic introspection,” he writes.

“So out in the middle of the Atlantic Britain will stay — more loosely bound to the U.S. on one side and to Europe on the other, occupied with its own governance challenges and counting for less in the world, year by year.”

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