London (United Kingdom) — Britons are set to vote for the third time in four years in a snap poll called to end the political deadlock over Brexit.
Voters will flock to polling booths today from 7am, braving cold, wet and possibly snowy weather in some regions, to participate in an election that has been dubbed the most important for a generation.
The ballot marks the end of a breakneck six-week campaign during which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, his main challenger, have battled for support despite both being widely criticised over their leadership credentials.
Johnson (55) has promised a right-wing Conservative government would “get Brexit done” and take the UK out of the EU by the end of January 2020 with his withdrawal agreement, and warned of more “dither and delay” in the event of a Labour victory.
Leader of the left-wing Labour Party, Corbyn (70) has said he would broker a softer divorce deal than Johnson’s and put a revised withdrawal agreement to a referendum, alongside the option to remain, within six months.
The veteran socialist MP has also promised to reshape the UK’s economy, with proposals such as income tax hikes for top earners and a nationalisation programme.
The winning candidate must scoop a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons in order to action their plans. On polling day, voting centres will close at 10pm, with final results expected to be declared by early Friday morning.
More than 45 million voters are registered to take part, but the weather might dampen turnout.
On the eve of the election, it remained unclear who might win the vote. The prime minister himself acknowledged that the race was “tighter than ever”.
The MRP poll, a major YouGov study released on Tuesday, suggested the chance of no party winning an outright majority — a result which would produce a hung parliament — was within the margin of error.
It predicted the Conservatives were set for only a slender majority of 28 seats — down from the sizeable 68 majority forecast by YouGov two weeks ago — and 339 seats overall.
It also forecast that Labour was set to win 231 seats, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) 41 seats and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats 15 seats.
In the event of a hung parliament, the party with the largest vote share may form a minority government, seek out the support of smaller parties for a “confidence and supply” arrangement, or try to build a formal coalition.
As well as how the UK is pulled out the EU, voters are concerned about a flatlining economy, creaking health and social care provision, the impact of a decade of austerity and the unfolding climate crisis.
Regarding Brexit, Johnson “hasn’t wanted to touch on detail . . . [and] I don’t think Labour are very comfortable on detail [either],” said Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe think tank. “They don’t want to talk about Brexit.”
The “odds were stacked against” Johnson or Corbyn’s proposals playing out on the timelines each had suggested, Menon said.
If Parliament passes Johnson’s existing withdrawal agreement by the current January 31 Brexit deadline, it will usher in a potentially gruelling transition period during which the UK and EU are expected to try and hammer out a deal on their future relationship. Johnson has repeatedly said this period will not be extended past the end of 2020, when it is currently scheduled to end, but there is widespread doubt over whether a comprehensive agreement could be concluded before then. — Al Jazeera