On August 28th, Queen Elizabeth approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend Parliament, increasing Parliament’s scheduled suspension period by more than a week, and truncating the remaining timetable until the deadline. Johnson’s controversial decision received significant backlash from British politicians across the political spectrum, resulting in resignations of protest from multiple high profile right-leaning politicians, including the PM’s own brother. As the legality of the suspension remains up in the air amid court appeals, Members of Parliament scrambled to pass legislation that would require the UK to reach a deal with Brussels before withdrawing from the European Union. Nonetheless, Parliament closed for suspension on September 10th amid a fractured chamber.
With the October 31st deadline for Brexit looming, the British public remains split on the nation’s best course of action. In a YouGov survey of adults in Great Britain fielded on August 28th, Britons were broadly critical of Johnson’s move, with nearly half of respondents (47%) thinking that it is unacceptable to suspend Parliament while just 27 percent think it is acceptable. Opinion is, however, noticeably split along party and ideological lines. A majority of Labour (68%) and 2016 Remain voters (73%) are critical of the move, whereas a majority of Conservative (52%) and 2016 Leave voters (51%) are approving. Beyond the divisions along the political spectrum, a quarter (26%) of the general public responded “don’t know” regarding the Parliamentary suspension.
Moreover, generational gaps have played an important role in the divisions in opinion surrounding Brexit. Breaking down the survey results by age group, a majority of British citizens aged 18-24 (51%) and a plurality of citizens aged 25-49 (49%) and 50-65 (48%) found the move unacceptable. Meanwhile, seniors were evenly divided, but most likely of all the age groups to consider the suspension acceptable.
The age differences echo the divide in how Britons voted in the 2016 EU Referendum. YouGov’s exit polls from 2016 noted that respondents aged 65 or older (64%) were more than twice as likely as the 18 to 24-year-old group (29%) to vote for the UK to leave the EU. Thus, recent events have done little to change minds among older age groups.
After three years of negotiations, the United Kingdom remains divided on several facets of Brexit planning. With less than two months left until the deadline, Parliament will need to decide one way or another. And despite a host of early losses for Johnson, it remains to be seen whether MPs will find a way to outmaneuver the Prime Minister on Brexit.
For more on Brexit, read Chicago Council President Ivo Daalder’s August 29th commentary.