The position in the polls remains much the same as the last time I updated – the Conservatives still have a substantial lead, though one that varies from pollster to pollster due to methodological differences. The figures also remain somewhat artificial given we know that a major event with the potential to transform the political weather (either Brexit going ahead, or Brexit being delayed) is looming upon the horizon. Perhaps the more interesting question is, therefore, what impact is that likely to have on the polls? Or perhaps more to the point, can polls tell us *anything* useful about what impact it would have on the polls?

Most of the polling that has set foot in this rather difficult territory has attempted to shed some light on what will happen if Boris Johnson ends up seeking a delay to Brexit.

Several polls have asked who people would blame if Brexit ended up being delayed, and as a rule they’ve tended to show that people wouldn’t blame Boris Johnson or, at least, that he would not be widely blamed by Conservative supporters or Brexiteers – the voters he needs to keep hold of. YouGov found 39% of people think a delay would be Boris Johnson’s fault to a large or moderate extent, 46% think it would bear little or none of the fault. Among Leave voters only 18% thought Johnson would bear significant blame. A ComRes poll found 34% think Johnson would bear much responsibility for a delay, 33% some responsibility and 22% no responsibility at all. Among leave voters only 19% thought he would bear much responsibility, 35% some, 37% none.

However, polls that have asked how people would vote if there was an election after a further delay to Brexit have invariably shown the Conservative party losing support and the Brexit party gaining it (for example, this ComRes poll from last month). A naive reading of that might be these two approaches are contradictory (the ones asking about blame suggest most people wouldn’t blame Boris, the ones asking hypothetical voting intention imply he would pay a heavy cost) – in reality they don’t. Even if most of his supporters wouldn’t blame Boris Johnson for an extension, if 1 in 5 Tories voters blamed him enough to defect to the Brexit party it severely damage the Conservatives’ electoral hopes.

I would urge some degree of caution on both these approaches though. We are asking people to imagine a rather vague hypothetical situation. A delay in Brexit could cover all sorts of different scenarios. Maybe Boris Johnson will apply for an extension, maybe he’ll resign and someone else will. Maybe he’d have done it willingly, maybe he’d have been forced into it by the Courts. More recently it’s been floated that he could even end up seeking an technical extension in order to deliver a deal. People’s reactions may be extremely different depending on the different circumstances. For now these uncertainties should put a question mark over any polls asking hypothetical questions about how the public think they would react to a delay – if political circumstances become clearer in the next week then perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll be in a better position to do useful polling on the issue.

In the meantime we are left to speculate. The questions I ask myself when trying to predict what the impact on public opinion are these. Can I imagine Boris Johnson seeking an extension and it NOT damaging him? Well, in certain circumstances I suppose I can, yes. On the other hand, can I imagine Boris Johnson having to seek an extension and it NOT giving Nigel Farage a boost?


1,843 Responses to “How much damage would a delay do to Boris Johnson?”

1 2 3 37
  1. An extension with a deal almost in hand is very different to an extension for more Parliamentary dithering.

    We shall see, but I’m very optimistic this ridiculous procrastinating is near the end!

  2. What polls can’t tell us at all is will getting a decent element of the current BXP VI over to Cons in a GE be harder if we don’t leave on 31sr October.

    I expect a short technical extension, despite his promises during the leadership campaign, will in reality have the same impact on leaving on Oct 31st.

    Of course the nature of the deal may impact but again we can’t even speculate sensibly.

  3. @ Jim Jam

    And it’ll keep us in “I told you so’s” for many years to come :|)

  4. @AW

    “In the meantime we are left to speculate. The questions I ask myself when trying to predict what the impact on public opinion are these. Can I imagine Boris Johnson seeking an extension and it NOT damaging him? Well, in certain circumstances I suppose I can, yes. On the other hand, can I imagine Boris Johnson having to seek an extension and it NOT giving Nigel Farage a boost?”

    The best way forward that I can see for Boris – electorally is:

    1. De facto CU/SM (dynamic alignment) for NI, with NI legally staying within the UK’s internal market/customs union.

    2. As soon as the ink is dry on (1) and it is approved by Parliament, moving expressing to a comprehensive EU-UK FTA, probably on the basis of an off-the-shelf model. This will need to be done as soon as possible to offset the fact that EU-GB will be on WTO tariffs in the interim.

    Ironically the quicker he secures (1) the more dangerous it is for his electoral chances as it thrusts the WTO chaos into full view. Indeed, it is likely that the quicker he secures (1) the more desperate he will be to do a deal on (2), which may ultimately lead to some sort of dynamic alignment of rights for GB.
    .

  5. Jim Jam

    “technical extension”

    Isn’t that a term developed by the EU to provide political cover for Johnson if the 31st October “die in a ditch” limit had to be passed?

    For Johnson to have rejected such so thoroughly seems to have been somewhat premature – if he is genuinely trying to achieve a deal.

  6. @JonesinBangor

    But it will be no deal for GB, will it not? So many people talking about an imminent deal, but it will only cover NI.

    It is likely to be the hardest possible brexit for GB – something I never believed a UK PM of any stripe would ever do.

  7. ON I think ‘technical extension’ was used to define the period of time needed to pass ancillary legislation once the main deal has passed the HOC; and, was used in relation to the May deal as March 29th approached.

  8. @RAF

    Uhhh?

    This is May deal. Boris.

    Given so many hated that as “BRiNO” I find it difficult to understand why you describe it as a hard deal, other than you are caught up in Remain dogma?

    I expect Labour to move the agenda on to the Future Arrangements ASAP, and use that as an excuse to avoid a General Election. The Tories will be caged by FTPA until 2021/22, even though Brexit will have been delivered!

  9. RAF

    “So many people talking about an imminent deal, but it will only cover NI. ”

    Remember the 3 parts of the initial EU requirements for a WA – Citizens’ rights, pay your debts, UK border in Ireland. If those are settled, they apply throughout the UK.

    The future relationship is a very different matter. Whatever is in the new version of the Political Declaration won’t be binding on either party.

    We just move on to phase 2 of England’s wrestling with itself as to who they elect as PM (with input from the other polities only if England can’t make up its mind) – and that choice will determine the closeness or otherwise to the EU.

    This nonsense has got years to run yet!

  10. Jim Jam

    Thanks – though its use by the EU since the elevation of Johnson seems to have been in a different context.

  11. Jonesinbangor,
    “An extension with a deal almost in hand is very different to an extension for more Parliamentary dithering.”

    Indeed. Its a wonderful excuse for accepting an extension. Of course, if the details of it were known to the public then likely the squabbling would resume and it would be torn to pieces, so best not reveal them?

  12. @JonesinBangor

    I say it’s hard Brexit for GB as unlike with May’s Deal there is no transitional period. It’s WTO tariffs from day 1.

    Of course I haven’t seen the deal (as there isn’t one yet!) but that is what most commentators are suggesting Boris’s proposal will look like.

  13. RAF

    If there is no transition period, will there even be a Political Declaration? It would seem a bit pointless.

  14. @JonesinBangor @OldNat

    I stand to be corrected if it turns out that parts of May’s Deal applicable to GB end up in Boris’s Deal. To date, I have heard no such thing.

    Indeed, we have been told Boris won’t accept in any WA
    – an interim CU for GB (pending an FTA):and/or
    – a interim or final level playing field for rights/standards etc; or

    Sounds like hard brexit to me.

    @OldNat – Citizens’ rights may help my family (recipricol residency rights etc), but it does nothing for trade.

    Can you point me to where Boris/Tories have said that WTO tariffs won’t apply from 1st Nov? (Other than via the mythical “managed no deal” unicorn?)

  15. Well I am wondering what news Jim Lee will read out at 10 pm. I hope he doesn`t muddle it up due to only having the text out in front of him minutes before.

    My guess there will be a fudged short extension under a different name proposed

  16. RAF

    Agreed that citizen’s rights and debt payments don’t affect trade. They were never intended to. Just like the UK/EU border in Ireland, these were just part of the initial part of the process, by which the UK left the EU.

    As you point out, none of us have seen the proposed “deal”, so we don’t know whether there is a form of transition. Even if I had seen something Johnson had said, I wouldn’t believe the utterances of a serial l!ar anyway!

    If Johnson is going back (effectively) to the pre 1801 “United Kingdom” on 1 Nov, sailing out to reconquer the Empire then it seems likely that only a short period will elapse before it further reverts to being the United Kingdom of Wessex, Anglia, Northumbria, Kent, Essex and Rutland.

  17. RAF

    I think you’ve made the mistake of literally believing something that Johnson has said.

    The whole point of a agreeing to a Withdrawal Agreement – including a replacement for the ‘Backstop’, is that we’re able to enter the ‘transition’ phase. We’ll cease to be an EU Member, but still be in the Single Market and Customs Union, and be subject to EU Law.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-45965825/brexit-basics-the-transition-period-explained

    This will continue until either we agree a new free trade deal with the EU27 (5-10 years?) or give up – in which case the ‘customs border in the Irish Sea’ will apply.

  18. Interesting story tonight in tomorrow’s Sun (from Tom Newton-Dunn): “Big split opens up among Tory Eurosceptics over whether to back Boris’s Brexit deal, as Owen Paterson brands it “absurd” and “unacceptable”. Iain Duncan-Smith also said to have “exploded” at No10 officials.”

  19. ProfH:

    That story on OP and IDS was also on the R4 10 pm programme.

    Has Johnson moved too far to satisfy the EU especially Ireland, and is going to lose in Saturday`s debates?

    It isn`t going to help his election chances.

  20. @JiB – It won’t be a May deal, because the whole stumbling block has been because the Johnson plan is to decouple from the EU regulatory systems, which creates the main issues with the NI border.

    That said, yes, you are absolutely right that whatever gets agreed this week or thereafter can be unwound after a GE if we get a new government.

    Indeed, the real talks start once we sort the deal out. Barnier said today that we will have to accept more level playing field agreements than Japan did to get the same FTA that they got, but we wanted better access than that.

    But it certainly does look like a deal is coming, either by the 31st or by January. It is interesting though to see Johnson make such an effort to secure a deal by the 31st. If he really thought a delay wouldn’t be a problem for Cons VI, he would just go through the deadline and blame the HoC.

    This tells me No 10 are worried about the impact of not getting a deal.

  21. Davwel

    If England (& Wales) want to be an independent country, out of the European Union, why are so many of their leaders so keen to remain in the UK Union, whose other component parts are such a drag on their ambitions?

  22. I assume the 2 Year transition (Or to 31/12/2020) would remain intact on this deal and of cause the transition can be extended

    Dont know how the DUP are going to support a backstop Customs Border in the Irish sea
    Of course even if the deal goes through there is no given about what the final outcome would be. The aim maybe “Canada Plus” now but that could soon change to Norway/ EEA or even rejoin at end of transition.

  23. Davel – thanks. It’s a long time since I listened to R4.

  24. Anthony Wells,
    “Several polls have asked who people would blame if Brexit ended up being delayed, and as a rule they’ve tended to show that people wouldn’t blame Boris Johnson or, at least, that he would not be widely blamed by Conservative supporters or Brexiteers – the voters he needs to keep hold of.”

    Well yes, he needs to keep hold of them, but to win he needs the same thing Cummings identified that leave needed to win the referendum – the centre ground voters not strongly committed to either side on Brexit.

    The writing on the wall is that if Britain leaves the EU, then Scotland and N. Ireland will leave the UK. SNP waxed heavy on this today. The best case outcome of leaving now with a bad deal or no deal is years of further disruption and the slow collapse of the UK. All this is corrosive of a faction of support which the conservatives would once have expected to enjoy. The destruction of the United Kingdom would be a heavy burden for the conservatives to seek to carry into future elections.

    I find it comforting that you agree with many of us here, that polls at the moment are in many respects pretty useless, at least in predicting the result of an election. Anyone else reading this, who are in the habit of pointing to a big tory win based on current polling, might pay attention.

    Post Brexit the leave coalition must dissolve. Take a few years as the Brexit process continues, but if we have clearly left, then that faction of support will be gone too. The conservatives will be left in a worse situation than before they adopted Brexit as a cause to get them an election win. Far worse, because they had historically sought to attract the leave vote while also holding the remain vote.

    Which is why I keep banging on that the best outcome for con is for Brexit to be stopped…by someone else. All the events post referendum have been consistent with this guiding theme of policy.

    So, if Brexit happens it is a con disaster. If con are seen to have turned aside and caused brexit to stop, it is a conservative disaster. The only way through is if parliament, or labour, or the people stop Brexit.

    As to blaming Boris personally, this was always to be his fate. MPs voted for him in the manner of a jury giving a guilty verdict. It had to be him at this point because he led the leave campaign.

    My view is that the current situation is best parallelled by the pre-2017 election situation. That had an even stronger con lead in a more leave inclined electorate. At present the con/leave coalition is fairly well united while the remain one is sharply divided. But so long as labour offers a route to remain, it will reunite the remain vote if there is an election. So the result has to be more MPs on the remain side. (not counting con who might well be remain but are formally on the leave side).

    BJ is attempting to ensure that if another vote arises, the conservative position is as imprecise a possible. To go to an election or referendum on one clearly defined flavour of Brexit is to lose for leave. As Cummings understood in the first place.

    However…every day that passes his new leader boost unravells a little more.

  25. In a follow up to my own post, I’ve just seen this from Tom Newton Dun (12 hrs ago) –

    “Having spoken to Cabinet ministers and No10 figures, it’s clear now that the intense fear of a Benn Act extension is what is driving Johnson to get a Brexit deal in place this week. So will the Rebel 21 have been the key to an Oct 31 deal or just a worse one? We will see soon.”

    It seems that the sense of desperation on display from Johnson really is because they know a failure to get a deal means an extension cannot be blocked and that this would greatly damage him.

  26. Prof Howard,
    “Interesting story tonight in tomorrow’s Sun (from Tom Newton-Dunn): “Big split opens up among Tory Eurosceptics over whether to back Boris’s Brexit deal, as Owen Paterson brands it “absurd” and “unacceptable”. Iain Duncan-Smith also said to have “exploded” at No 10 officials.””

    Groundhog Day. Thought while Boris tried to get his election, he didnr make it.

    We may yet see he doesnt get his deal either. So his epitaph might be the PM who failed to even call an election at which he could lose ground, and then failed to get a deal which the commons could reject.

  27. If there is no transition deal it will not get anywhere near getting through Parliament, and the EU would not have agreed it anyway. Not sure where this idea has come from.

    There is plenty of discussion about level playing field rules being ditched from the political declaration. This is what will be finalised during the transition period

  28. A suggestion from James O’Brien

    I think the headbangers will claim to support *any* ‘deal’ now. Even one demonstrably inferior to May’s & immeasurably worse than EU membership. It’s not complicated or nuanced or even particularly political any more. It’s just the only alternative to admitting their mistake.

    Not all of the headbangers, obviously, but he may have a point.

  29. All the talk is now that a legal text is being drafted and discussed. It looks like a deal will be agreed, ready for EC and HoC sign off.

    It sounds like everyone on the EU side is happy enough, which suggests it’s the UK doing most of the moving. The question comes back to people like IDS and the DUP.

    Interestingly, Johnson promised that any MPs voting against his agreement would have the whip withdrawn like the 21 rebels. That would mean Owen Paterson, IDS etc potentially barred from standing in an election.

    The biters bit?

  30. I’ve just answered an Opinium poll which had a lot of questions about Johnson’s deal – such as whether I supported it etc. I answered “Don’t Know” to most of them because the deal is still being negotiated as far as I know.

  31. Pete B

    Sounds like a rather pointless poll, and your responses seem appropriate.

    However, it may have been commissioned by the Tories (not intended for publication) in order to find out how their spin has been received by their key demographics.

  32. As to labour, whither they?

    Similar problems apply to them as to the splitting of their traditional base. If any deal is presented to the commons, they must either support or oppose. If they allow through any deal, they lose remain support. If they insist on a second referendum, probably the best way they could support a deal, then there will be an outcome either for or against in a national vote. If remain win, all well and good for both lab and con.

    If leave win, then it all becomes a bit sticky. As per my last post, lots of reasons con will lose support post brexit happening. Some of that might revert back to labour. However, a good chunk of serious remain will become rejoin and flock to the lib flag, if it remains raised for rejoin. If we end up with con relian on the rump of its tradiional vote, lab reliant on the rump of its traditional vote, but lib boosted by rejoin….then libs will make significant gains.

    Lab and con both supporting leave is the ticket for libs back to the top table in their own right.

  33. RAF
    “It is likely to be the hardest possible brexit for GB”

    I do hope so.
    ———————-
    ON
    “If Johnson is going back (effectively) to the pre 1801 “United Kingdom” on 1 Nov, sailing out to reconquer the Empire then it seems likely that only a short period will elapse before it further reverts to being the United Kingdom of Wessex, Anglia, Northumbria, Kent, Essex and Rutland.”

    I know you’ve done that just to wind me up. Don’t forget England is just Greater Mercia as far as I’m concerned. :)
    ———————————-
    James E

    I’m surprised you gave a link to the BBC. I didn’t think anyone watched their news any more. Where is the coverage of Brexit rallies? Where is their coverage of the strongest Swiss chess tournament in the history of the world taking place in the Isle of Man?

  34. @James E

    “RAF

    I think you’ve made the mistake of literally believing something that Johnson has said.

    The whole point of a agreeing to a Withdrawal Agreement – including a replacement for the ‘Backstop’, is that we’re able to enter the ‘transition’ phase. We’ll cease to be an EU Member, but still be in the Single Market and Customs Union, and be subject to EU Law.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-45965825/brexit-basics-the-transition-period-explained

    This will continue until either we agree a new free trade deal with the EU27 (5-10 years?) or give up – in which case the ‘customs border in the Irish Sea’ will apply.”

    Thanks James. I know how it is meant to work. I have Masters Degree in European Law (hopefully that stands for something…

    My concern is that the only substantive trade issue being covered by Boris’s WA is the NI backstop. Technically that will have a transitional period as (given what we understand this far) it may in future be ended (or not extended) with the consent of NI.

    Then again, you may be right and Boris may just be playing us only to revert to May’s Deal. As we are now in a new session of Paliament, this is, of course possible.

  35. Andrew111

    “If there is no transition deal it will not get anywhere near getting through Parliament, and the EU would not have agreed it anyway. Not sure where this idea has come from.”

    Indeed. The whole benefit to the UK of signing any Withdrawal Agreement is to continue to be able to be in the Single Market and Customs Union, until such time as a new trade deal with the EU is reached.

    I suspect that as transition has been so little mentioned, some people have assumed that it would no longer apply. And because the Withdrawal Agreement has been discussed as a ‘Brexit Deal’ many people do not realise that it is only the first (and easiest) part of sorting out the UK’s future relationship.

    CETA took 7 years from start to finish, and it is unlikely that any new UK/EU free trade agreement can be done any more quickly.

  36. Pete B

    “M” didn’t fit in the acronym.

  37. @ Danny

    “Lab and con both supporting leave is the ticket for libs back to the top table in their own right.”

    I see that as extremely unlikely.

    Far more likely that Labour passively enabling Brexit means that they can avoid an election and a thrashing at the ballot box and move the agenda to something else.

  38. @Pete B

    “I know you’ve done that just to wind me up. Don’t forget England is just Greater Mercia as far as I’m concerned. :)”

    ——

    Lol, I was wondering about the meself, but figured I’d let you deal with it. (Maybe he wants Mercia to join Scotland anyway…)

  39. ON
    Sorry, I missed the subtlety. Nice one!

  40. Carfrew
    Not for the first time ON has outfoxed both of us. Up the Villa!

  41. @Pete B

    Incidentally, I have decided, after careful consideration, that there is indeed a difference between West and East Mercians.

  42. @NORBOLD
    BRXT

    “Oooohhhh!!!! I double dare you to continue yours.”

    How can I “continue” after I made your point look so silly, you never even responded?

  43. Johnson’s deal … we really know nothing yet.

  44. @LEFTIELIBERAL

    “As Theresa May said (more truthfully than perhaps she realised) “Brexit is Brexit”. BrINO is only the term that extreme Brexiteers, like yourself, use for a Brexit that they don’t like.

    No British MEPs in the European Parliament, no CAP or CFP is certainly Brexit and we have always had free movement from countries like the Irish Republic and Malta, both now EU member states.”

    So because Ireland and Malta used to be part of the British Empire, we now have to admit every Slovakian, Slovenian, Croatian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Czech, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian…….

    That’s your point? Seriously?

  45. Anthony’s analysis makes no sense.

    Just because Boris isn’t to blame doesn’t mean the Conservative’s aren’t to blame. Hammond, Clarke, Grieves etc

  46. carfrew

    haven’t been around for a couple of days but wanted to say thanks for your summing up and let you know that I have decided to go for the ipad air.

    May well be back with further questions once I have the little rascal.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  47. “On the other hand, can I imagine Boris Johnson having to seek an extension and it NOT giving Nigel Farage a boost?”

    Thing is, with the current polling splits, even a small switch could be very damaging in terms of potential seats.

    Meanwhile it seems cracks are rather predictably appearing in MPs support for the ‘new’ deal despite some newspapers enthusiasm a day or three ago. They seemed to be reading rather to much into MPs reserving judgement till they’ve seen the actual deal.

  48. Apparently (I’ve run out of free access to the FT)

    “FT reporting that Johnson offering big cash payment – in the billions – for Northern Ireland to bring DUP onside for the ‘double customs’ plan ” (Irish Times)

    https://t.co/HeEkiyTSWh?amp=1

  49. Jonesinbangor,
    “Far more likely that Labour passively enabling Brexit means that they can avoid an election and a thrashing at the ballot box and move the agenda to something else.”

    There has to be an election by 2022. Brexit will not be over by then if we leave now. Whichever side labour has positioned itself on, the other will act accordingly. If they have gone leave, then they are sunk in that election without remain on board

    I appreciate you believe that by then Brexit will be going well, whereas I think we will be in the middle of a financial crisis with booming national debt and no way out (except rejoin). Property market will have collapsed, repossessions and bankruptcies. Firms making noises about closures. In such an environment, anyone who facilitated that happenning will not be winning an election. And that is why con do not want to leave the EU.

  50. @DANNY

    “I appreciate you believe that by then Brexit will be going well, whereas I think we will be in the middle of a financial crisis with booming national debt and no way out (except rejoin). Property market will have collapsed, repossessions and bankruptcies. Firms making noises about closures. In such an environment, anyone who facilitated that happenning will not be winning an election. And that is why con do not want to leave the EU.”

    And why (exactly) do you think that will happen?

1 2 3 37