Weekly briefing: United Kingdom heads to the polls

A weekly round-up of relevant IEP data providing insight into the world around us.

Friday, 1 November 2019: This week the United Kingdom (UK) propelled itself into the next chapter of one of its most extraordinary political periods. The British parliament has voted in overwhelming favour of a general election on 12 December, the third general election since 2015, and another attempt from all political players to gain enough power to push along plans for Brexit, and the country. A five week-week campaign will ensue up until election day, but initial public polling suggests that many doubt an election will lead to a resolution on Brexit. Earlier, the European Union granted the UK another Brexit extension until 31 January, 2020.

Positive Peace deteriorates in the UK

The latest Positive Peace Report shows the UK had one of the poorest performances of any European nation in the last decade, deteriorating by 3.4 per cent in its Positive Peace score.

Despite the announcement of the general election, there has long been little consensus in Parliament about how to approach negotiations with European authorities on Brexit. It is still unclear whether there will be a negotiated separation from the European Union (EU), or if the country will leave without an agreement. Some are rallying for another Brexit referendum.

In the wider public, the antagonism has intensified between those who want to leave and those who want to stay in the EU. Businesses have delayed investment decisions because of the uncertainty, which has affected economic growth.

This tension has manifested as a deterioration in the UK Positive Peace Index score from 2016 onwards, reversing the trend improvement of the previous five years. Both the Attitudes and Institutions domains deteriorated in the past few years, more than offsetting gains in Structure indicators.

British Attitudes deteriorated sharply in 2011. Interestingly this corresponded with the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Another sharp deterioration took place from 2016 corresponding with the Brexit debate.

Over the past decade, three indicators deteriorated markedly: factionalised elites, hostility to foreigners and group grievance. These underline tensions between Brexiteers and remainers as well as a more adverse view on immigration.

It is possible for the UK to reverse these trends in the years ahead, but it will require clarity and resolution from authorities, as well as policies that promote the inclusion of different societal views.

Positive Peace, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, can be described as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Different to negative peace, or the absence of violence, Positive Peace creates resilient and adaptive societies that pre-empt conflict and help societies channel disagreements productively.

The Positive Peace Index measures the level of Positive Peace in 163 countries and is composed of 24 indicators that capture the eight Pillars of Positive Peace.