May's UK election gamble backfires badly as Conservatives lose majority in Parliament

Elias Hubbard
June 11, 2017

Standing outside 10 Downing St. today, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May tried to put a courageous face on the disastrous results of Thursday's vote.

Having piloted the Conservative Party from a comfortable working majority in the House of Commons to a hung parliament will, at the very least, result in some demands for May to step down, even as the Conservatives emerge as the single largest party. It now holds 318 seats. An opposition Labour Party, in apparent disarray with a leader from its hard-left wing, Jeremy Corbyn, appeared to her as an additional reason.

"Yet another own goal, after Cameron now May, will make already complex negotiations even more complicated", tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian premier who is the European Parliament's point man for the Brexit process.

Six months ago, I predicted that British Prime Minister Theresa May's government wouldn't last far beyond May of this year. May's hubris, which propelled her to call for a snap election in order to accumulate power with which to negotiate the Brexit talks, saw her scuttle from the shadows of humiliation with the same leaden egotism and toe-curling self-importance that she demonstrated during the campaign-when May insisted that she alone could provide the "strong and stable" leadership required to guide Britain through Brexit and its many terror threats.

We have an incoming government that can commence Brexit negotiations; like it or not, the Tories have been planning out their negotiations with the European Union under the assumption they would be in power. "Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom". Her appearances were limited to tightly controlled events in bleak factory spaces, during which she said little of substance and refused to answer questions from the media, let alone explain her plans for the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, which formally get underway later this month.

"Everybody is positioning themselves", said Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at Kings College London.

Some remembered it as the party of Ian Paisley, the firebrand Protestant cleric who once heckled the Pope himself, calling him the antichrist. It's hard to predict how they'll react, he says. The DUP is now led by Arlene Foster, and is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It reflects poorly on May's leadership that she has brought her party to this pass. So the Labour and Liberal Democrat majority in the House of Lords - which May cowed into authorizing the start of the Brexit talks in February - can reject the deal that a minority Conservative government produces. Her Conservatives lost 12 seats in Thursday's election and finished eight seats short of winning a majority.

We also now see a wider range of potential outcomes, including a softer Brexit in light of parliament's new makeup. We expect the Bank of England to keep its accommodative policies in place to support the economy through the uncertain negotiation period, looking beyond any short-term inflation spikes unless price pressures become sticky. "Do your best to avoid a "no deal" as result of "no negotiations". Instead, Thursday's vote damaged her authority and made her negotiating position more vulnerable to criticism.

With the DUP hailed as the "kingmakers" in a deal to enable May to remain as Prime Minister, questions arose as to what kind of arrangement had been made by the DUP. The Labour Party gained 32 seats, jumping from 229 to 261, setting back May and the Conservative Party.

It's unclear what Theresa May's next move will be, but pundits are suggesting she will likely strike a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, who now hold 10 seats.

As I argue in my recent book, the business environment of Europe is much more than the United Kingdom market, and us companies have become increasingly aware of this since Brexit.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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