Brexit Split Sparks Leadership Battles in Top British Parties

Mass Resignations in Labour's Shadow Cabinet

Amid growing uncertainty on several fronts after the British referendum Thursday ended in favor of withdrawing from the European Union, major shifts in alliances across the country are expected, and both major political parties find themselves locked in leadership battles.

The Conservative Party was split on the Brexit, and anti-Brexit PM David Cameron has announced his intention to resign. Though pro-Brexit Boris Johjnson was initially seen as a presumptive heir,  there was a quick backlash from Cameron’s allies, who are scrambling to find a “stop-Boris” candidate. One hasn’t emerged yet, but Johnson clearly doesn’t have the party’s leadership behind him on the matter.

And while Labour didn’t have a ton of outspoken pro-Brexit figures, they’re in even worse shape, with a third of their Shadow Cabinet withdrawing, announcing their opposition to party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn was never super close with the party leadership, taking the top spot on grassroots support.

Once again, the Brexit was the tipping point, with many of Corbyn’s opponents criticizing him for not being more vocally opposed to the Brexit, and suggesting he was secretly in favor of it. Corbyn is promising a new leadership more in line with him, but this looks like another long-term battle.

A Brexit, if it meant a subsequent Scottish secession, would be calamitous for Labour, as it would cost them their traditional allies, the Scottish National Party. At the same time, the Brexit referendum has greatly increased UKIP’s profile, and the Conservatives may struggle to retain a stranglehold on the right, particularly if they manage to pass over Johnson on leadership.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.