Research Results

Brexit Memo

Author: Hovik Minasyan

This memo accompanies the data set titled “Brexit Positions of MPs Elected in the 2019 Election”, and will analyze the methodology and results of the data and compare it to the Positions of the Parliament elected in the 2015 election, and in the case of the Conservative Party (who saw the largest shift in positions) the Parliament elected in 2017 as well.

Methodology

General Table Info

Before creating the data set myself, I first looked into whether anyone else had done something similar. The BBC, The Guardian, and other British Publications had done something similar for the 2015 Parliament, and the Financial Times for the 2017 elected Conservatives, but there was no dataset for the newly elected class of MPs.

The Table highlights a few things. Every row corresponds to an elected MP and states the constituency which they won, the party that held the seat before the election, the name of the MP who won, whether the winner was an incumbent or not, their position on Brexit in 2016, and any further notes regarding their election or position. In very few instances, I was unable to find any information about their views in 2016. This often happened with the younger members, who often were regular citizens during the time of the referendum, and thus (presumably) did not publish their opinions online. To work around this, I found their opinion during the time of the election, and counted that. Secondly, in the further notes section, I highlight extra info I believe would be pertinent to the MP. For example, if a “Leave” Tory had won the seat from a “Remain Tory” or the reasons why a Labour MP campaigned for “Leave”.

The dataset is divided into different tabs, each representing every party in Parliament that has at least 1 elected member. This includes Sinn Fein, which does not formally sit in Parliament out of protest.

How Position Data Were Acquired

The Positions of the MPs came from a few sources. Most prominent was Twitter. Surprisingly, almost all the MPs (aside from some of the Tories) had very active Twitter accounts, and a large majority of data came from posts made by MPs in 2016 showing them campaigning for their position, holding signs with their position on it, or merely statements regarding how they would vote or what side they were taking. The personal websites of the MPs were also very useful. Here, most MPs posted more detailed statements which described how they would vote or how they had voted in the 2016 Referendum. Other minor sources included: interviews that MPs did with their local newspapers, the BBC, the Guardian, and Facebook posts made by the MP.

Results

The final tally for 2019 was 373 MPs supporting Remain and 235 supporting leave1 (61% in favor of Remain2). The break down for support was as expected. Labour, SNP, and Lib Dems were almost unanimously for Remain, while Tories were split 129 for Remain and 225 for Leave. The minor parties were also overwhelmingly for Remain. When we look at the numbers in 2016, we see a more pro-Remain parliament: 479 for Remain and 158 for Leave (75% for Remain)3. When looking at the numbers a bit closer, one can see that most of the change came from the Tories. In 2016, the split was 185-138 for Remain, in 2017 the number stayed largely the same with 176-138 for Remain4. However, after the 2019 election, the number drastically shifted to 129-225 for Leave. Also interesting to note are the many MPs who were Pro-Remain in 2016, but stood down or lost to pro-Leave Tories.

Conclusion

Overall, the positions of MPs regarding Brexit shifted slightly towards the Leave side between the 2015 and 2019 elections. However, Parliament still remains comfortably Remain. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has seen a massive increase in its disdain for the EU, with voters ousting many Remain MPs and replacing them with Leave counterparts.


1 This adds up to 608 MPs. There are 650 MPs in Parliament. The 41 Missing MPs are because I was unable to find any info about them. This was either because they had no online presence, they were new and had not posted anything about their campaigns, or they deliberately kept their opinions private. Many of these missing names were Labour MPs, so it can be very strongly assumed that they were pro-Remain.

2 This includes the positions of those MPs I was unable to find 2016 opinions for. If you were to look at only the MPs with verifiable 2016 opinions, the percentage would be 66% in favor of Remain.

3 “EU Vote: Where the Cabinet and Other MPs Stand.” BBC News , BBC, 22 June 2016, www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35616946

4 Mance, Henry. “Majority of New Conservative MPs Backed UK to Remain in EU.” Subscribe to Read | Financial Times, Financial Times, 23 June 2017, www.ft.com/content/408da138-550b-11e7-80b6-9bfa4c1f83d2