Updated at 11:10 a.m. EST on October 22, 2019
The British people have changed their mind about Brexit. Beginning in the summer of 2017, and accelerating in the summer of 2018 by an ever wider margin, British people have told pollsters that they voted wrong in the Brexit referendum of June 2016.
Over that same period, however, Britain’s Conservative Party has become more and more committed to Brexit. Sixty-three percent of Conservative Party supporters would rather see Scotland secede from the United Kingdom than abandon the Brexit project. Sixty-one percent of Conservatives would accept significant damage to the British economy to achieve Brexit. Fifty-nine percent would let Northern Ireland go. Fifty-four percent would rather see the Conservative Party itself destroyed than yield on Brexit.
So there’s the dilemma for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His party is demanding something that the country does not want. He cannot pass that “something” through Parliament. Johnson has lost his working majority in Parliament; he has not won a single vote on a single major issue there. But despite solid parliamentary opposition to his project, Johnson cannot give up. His party would tear him apart as it tore apart his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron if he did. He must push, push, push, and suffer defeat after defeat after defeat. In any previous period of British history, the Johnson government would already have fallen. An election would have been called, and—given the unpopularity of the government’s one big idea—the Conservatives would almost certainly have lost.