Britain's new Conservative Party leader Theresa May (C) speaks to members of the media at The St Stephen's entrance to the Palace of Westminster in London on July 11, 2016. Theresa May will on Wednesday become the prime minister who leads Britain's into Brexit talks after her only rival in the race to succeed David Cameron pulled out unexpectedly. May was left as the only contender standing after the withdrawal from the leadership race of Andrea Leadsom, who faced criticism for suggesting she was more qualified to be premier because she had children. / AFP PHOTO / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVASDANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
Theresa May speaks to the media outside Westminster in London in July 2016 © AFP

Like everyone who reports on Brexit, I am asked by friends, family and total strangers: “What’s going to happen?”

A fellow journalist says something different to everyone who asks, in order to maximise his chances of being right at least once. But if I’ve learnt anything in the past two years, it’s to leave the predictions to the professionals.

David Cameron, prime minister (June 2016) on the Brexit referendum: “It won’t be a verdict on me, whatever the outcome is.”

Vote Leave (2016): “The new UK-EU Treaty should be ready within two years.”

David Davis, future Brexit secretary (July 2016): “Within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU. Trade deals with the US and China alone will give us a trade area almost twice the size of the EU.”

John Redwood, Conservative MP (May 2016): “Whichever way the public votes, the next leader of the Conservative party is likely to be a Brexiteer.”

Theresa May, Conservative leadership candidate (July 2016): “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish first minister (June 2016): “I think an independence referendum is now highly likely. It would be inconceivable . . . that the UK government would seek to stand in its way.”

Alex Salmond, former Scottish first minister (September 2016): “If I have to guess a date [for a second independence referendum] then I’d say that it is likely to be the autumn of 2018.”

Downing Street (March 2017): “There is not going to be a general election.”

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader (September 2017): “I think it’s perfectly plausible [that I could be prime minister]. What you may find is that there’s a big shift of opinion in our direction.”

Andrew Adonis, Labour peer: (September 2017): “I would be very surprised if [the Labour party is] not committed to a referendum on the exit terms within six months.”

Arron Banks, Brexit campaigner (October 2017): “The Electoral Commission are undertaking an inquiry and I can’t wait for the report.”

Christopher Meyer, former UK ambassador (December 2017): “When the history books are written, people will see that Brexit stage 1 [ie negotiations ending December 2017] was the hard part, but once the political and psychological hurdle had been jumped, stage 2 was relatively straightforward.”

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader (December 2017): “There will probably be another election in the next 12 months. I think we’d probably win it, with a majority.”

Boris Johnson, foreign secretary (February 2018): “I believe that the crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman], who is only 32, has demonstrated by word and deed that he aims to guide Saudi Arabia in a more open direction.”

Department for Transport (May 2018): “New drone laws bring added protection for passengers.”

Michael Gove, environment secretary (December 2018): “The vote is going ahead.”

Of course, it’s easy to be dismissive. Some predictions have been right and others could yet be proven so. For example:

Nigel Farage, independent MEP (August 2018): “Inevitably you can see the European project will be lucky to survive more than a decade.”

Downing Street ( July 2018): “There is not going to be a second referendum in any circumstances.”

Jeremy Corbyn (February 2018): “Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.”

Jeremy Corbyn (December 2018): “[A no-deal Brexit] cannot and will not happen.”

Theresa May: “[ A no-deal Brexit] won’t be the end of the world.”

They can’t all be wrong — can they?

henry.mance@ft.com

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