Image: George Hodan Image: George Hodan

Prepare for much indignation from 17,410,742 people, Brexit may not happen, and if it does, expect it to be significantly watered down.

There was much that confused Remain supporters about the period of Theresa May’s time as prime minister up to the June 2017 election. For someone who said she voted Remain, she seemed to portray all the hallmarks of someone who held the most radical of anti-EU views.

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, one view that did the rounds, drawing popular support, was for certain pockets, namely London and Scotland, to be granted some kind of special EU status, with movement of labour between these two regions and the rest of the EU remaining free. Creating a soft border between north and south Ireland also forms part of this concept. Mrs May dismissed such as idea, out of hand.

But now things are looking different. And they are different for the following reasons.

Wafer thin majority

There is one thing that Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tory party in Scotland, and the DUB have in common. Sure, they appear to have quite different views on gay rights, and climate change, but they agree on one thing – they are pro soft Brexit. And the Tory party needs both – any hint of a hard Brexit, or phrases such as no deal is better than a bad deal, and Mrs May loses their support.

The deal with the DUP will mean a soft border in Ireland – once that precedent is set, then it becomes easier to see how a soft border between London and the EU or Scotland and the EU may be created.

Macron and Schaeuble

EU leaders are getting this, and are supporting the soft Brexit camp. A few days ago, the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said that if the UK changed its decision, then “of course, they would find open doors.”

He added “the door is open as long as Brexit negotiations aren’t over – although he warned that once negotiations started, it will be much harder “to go back.”

Meanwhile Mr Macon said pretty much the same thing: “the door remained open.” But, like the German Finance minister, warned that as the negotiations go on, it will be harder to go backwards.

The economy

The UK economy was the slowest growing economy in the EU in Q1, excluding Malta, Luxembourg and Ireland, for whom we do not yet have data. The UK grew by 0.2 per cent in the quarter, the second slowest economy was Greece, which saw a growth rate double the UK rate. Recent purchasing managers’ indexes suggest that the euro area will growth at the brisk pace of 0.7 per cent in Q2. Most economists agree, the UK is set to enter a lean period. Inflation is up to 2.9 per cent, real wages are set to fall sharply.

The UK economy is set to become the sick man of Europe.

This is going to create huge resentment among the electorate. Rightly or wrongly, Brexit will get the blame.

Another election

The Tory government is only a handful of poor byelection results – that’s poor from the Tory point of view – from being forced to call another election. This has changed everything.

Another election will surely be called before the UK leaves the EU.

Such an election will be a de facto vote on Brexit.

The rise of the young

The EU referendum was held in June 2016. Let’s say the next election will be held on December 31st 2018 – it won’t be, of course, but it’s an easy date to work with, and the inference is the same. Between June 2016 and the last day of 2018, roughly 1.7 million people, not eligible to vote in the EU referendum will have passed their 18th birthday.

Roughly 70 per cent of younger voters voted Remain. And the election of 2017 saw younger people become more politically active.

Recent data says that 66 per cent of younger people eligible to vote in the EU referendum did. So that’s potentially 66 per cent of 1.7 million people voting in an election at the end of 2018, potentially 803,000 more Remain votes, 489,000 more leave votes.

If the next election is held on the last day of this year, that’s potentially 344,000 more Remain voters, and just 209,000 more Leave voters.

But this ignores the number of people of an older age who will have dropped out of the voting pool since the EU referendum.

Does this mean Brexit will be cancelled?

Probably not. But the odds of the softest of soft Brexits is now very high.