Thursday 19 October 2017

Hung parliament: What it could mean for Brexit negotiations

Brussels sources say a hung parliament would leave Brexit in 'uncharted territory'

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Conservative Party HQ in Westminster, London, as her future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Conservative Party HQ in Westminster, London, as her future as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives was being openly questioned Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire

This morning's election results have dealt a massive blow to Theresa May’s credibility, but it has also left a major question mark over Brexit.

Ms May’s entire reason for calling the election was to give her a strong majority with which her party could confidently negotiate with Brussels and pass necessary legislation.

But instead the result indicated in the exit poll – leaving the Tories 12 short of the required number of Commons seats – would embolden anti-Brexit parties potentially needed in any coalition.

The poll released at 10pm UK time sent tremors right across Europe, with one senior EU source telling The UK Independent: “Everyone here is shocked.

“We weren’t planning for this at all. We were expecting Ms May to have a 30 or 40 seat majority.

“It’s not clear how a coalition in Britain could work. There are suggestions there may have to be another election – we are in uncharted territory.” 

While Britain has already started the clock ticking on leaving the EU by triggering a two-year negotiation period with Brussels, European Commission officials have suggested they could delay the opening of talks beyond the planned June 19 start date – but it is unlikely a few more days would help the UK get its act.

Mrs May's party is the biggest and she has the right to try and stay on either through a coalition deal or simply without a majority in the Commons.

But if the Prime Minister does choose to try and govern with a minority, it would leave her in an almost impossibly difficult situation.

She would need the votes of other parties, who have roundly rejected her approach to Brexit, in order to get one of the most complex and divisive legislative programmes in history through two chambers of Parliament – without having a majority in either.

Even if she could reach the point where she successfully passes the myriad laws needed before Brexit, and then agrees a deal with an EU in a far stronger bargaining position, any final settlement would have to be put to a vote in a House of Commons with no united position.

Almost every other party which would have seats if the exit poll is correct, believes Ms May’s Brexit plan would result in a hard a rupture with Europe that would damage the economy, making a coalition very difficult.

Labour figures have already called for Ms May to resign if the poll is correct, meaning the idea of a grand Brexit coalition between the Tories and Labour with the current Prime Minister at the helm is highly unlikely.

Even with another Tory leader, the compromises they would have to make to win Labour support for Brexit may make any deal untenable to the Conservative right.

A panicked Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said Brexit is in “jeopardy”, while ex-Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Danny Blanchflower took to Twitter to say: “If the exit polls are right Brexit is done best news ever [sic]”.

A potential coalition involving Labour, the SNP or the Liberal Democrats – looking past the fact that some parties have ruled out deals and pacts – could mean any Brexit deal would have to be put to a second referendum.

Figures in both the EU and in London have indicated that Article 50 – the triggering of which began the Brexit process – is reversible.

But turning it round now would take a huge amount of political will in both the UK and Brussels.

(© Independent News Service)

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