PM Theresa May's failure to win strong mandate plunges Britain and Brexit talks in uncertainty

British daily newspapers showing front page stories about the exit poll results of the snap general election.
British daily newspapers showing front page stories about the exit poll results of the snap general election.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - The election on Thursday (June 8) was meant to strengthen Prime Minister Theresa May's hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, but with no majority secured and a hung parliament declared, Mrs May's mandate is lost.

With the negotiations set to start on June 19, and Britain plunged into a state of political crisis, talks with Brussels are in disarray.

The shocking poll results - the ruling Conservative Party fell eight seats shy of the 326 needed to form a government - are an indication that large swathes of voters do not like the way Mrs May is handling the country's departure from the European Union.

Her insistence on a "hard" Brexit, which will see Britain leaving Europe's single market and curbing European immigration, and her combative stance have alienated not just her own constituents, but her colleagues in the EU as well.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

With her hand significantly weakened rather than strengthened and her credibility in shreds, Mrs May - even if she can put a government together either as a coalition or a minority - will face much uncertainty in the upcoming talks.

Will Britain continue to insist on leaving the single market and customs union and put a stop to the free movement of people? How will Mrs May proceed when more than half the country did not give her the Brexit endorsement she was seeking when she called a snap election in April?

EU leaders may not offer her much sympathy. She has, after all, been a bit harsh to them, threatening to pull security collaboration if they fail to reach an agreement, and using EU citizens residing in Britain as bargaining chips.

Even if Brussels gives her some breathing room to get her house in order, it is unlikely they will want the negotiations to drag on beyond its given two-year time frame.

European Council president Donald Tusk said as much when he tweeted this on Friday morning (June 9): "We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a 'no deal' as result of 'no negotiations'."

But before the deal-making can begin, there is the business of forming a government, and the likelihood is an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 of Northern Ireland's 18 seats and does not want a hard Brexit.

If the Tories are unable to form a coalition government with another party, they could still try to run a minority government, which would have to depend on other parties to help push their legislation through.

News is that Mrs May will see the Queen at 12.30pm (7.30pm Singapore time) at Buckingham Palace to seek her permission to form a government.

If she does, voters will surely want to know what she plans on doing with Brexit now that the game has changed.

 

Related Stories: