Theresa May’s snap election gamble has turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in British political history.
To the surprise of some (but not all) pollsters, Thursday’s (08/06) vote resulted in a hung parliament. The Conservatives ended up with the most seats, 318, followed by Labour on 262, which meant no single party won a majority in the House of Commons.
But what exactly does this mean for the Brexit process going forward?
According to CNN, there is frustration among EU leaders and officials that three months have passed since British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, and no progress has been made on Brexit negotiations, with the snap election provoking yet more political turmoil.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), suggested her party’s ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Tories was far from a settled:
“The Prime Minister has spoken with me this morning and we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.”
If an informal deal is done “Mrs May will face an almighty struggle to pursue the policies set out in the Conservative manifesto” according to The Telegraph.
The slim majority of Commons seats will leave to Tories vulnerable to defections, and it’s not clear what legislation the DUP will commit to support.
The government is now also more facing possible rejection of legislation by the House of Lords, with major amendments almost a guarantee.
And while the ‘Salisbury Convention’ means the House of Lords don’t normally block proposed legislation, minority governments’ have minimal authority. Peers may be another thorn in May’s side.
The current political climate has a significant effect on Brexit bills. The government plans to propose a “Great Repeal Bill” that would transpose 40 years of EU law into sovereign UK law, as well as other Brexit-related legislation. But in this new political environment, the opposition parties – possibly with the help of Conservative defectors – see an opportunity to block such bills and perhaps pass their own amendments.
Whilst there are not enough MPs willing to demand a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal, there could be enough in favour of forcing the government to pursue some form of interim participation in the European single market, pending negotiation of a subsequent post-Brexit trade deal.
Doubts have risen over the position of the Conservatives’ new bedfellow, the DUP, as the latter is keen on maintaining a ‘frictionless’ border with the Irish Republic. This would require some form of treaty with the EU that would have to be settled as part of the overall Brexit deal.
May – who yesterday parted ways with her controversial advisors, Fiona Hunt and Nick Timothy, the pair seen as the driving force behind her hard-line Brexit approach – has insisted that the Brexit negotiations will start in a week’s time, as planned.
This was confirmed yesterday (15/06) by EU Brexit coordinator Michel Barnier and British Brexit secretary David Davis despite widespread calls for a rethink on the drastic Brexit stance adopted by May’s government, with several tory backbenchers going public after the snap election result.
A ‘softer’ Brexit is now supported by a majority of the MPs in the House of Commons.