Vidya Ram

May’s failed gambit set to change face of Brexit

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 09, 2017

Softer approach A protester wearing a Theresa May mask holds a placard seeking a non-hard approach to Brexit, after the announcement of election results in London on Friday   -  REUTERS

Parting ways with the EU may turn more complicated than ever for Britain

The shock hung Parliament that resulted from the snap general election has thrown into doubt many apparent uncertainties in British politics, including the future direction of the country’s approach to Brexit.

After all, it was around seeking validation for her Brexit approach that Prime Minister Theresa May pegged the need for the election.

In April, a confident May told the nation that while she had the public behind her she wanted the parliamentary mandate, too.

Even after the exit polls predicted a hung Parliament late on Thursday, the Minister in charge of Brexit, David Davis, said that the party’s proposal — to leave the single market and the customs union while building relations with the rest of the world — was put before the people.

“We’ll see tomorrow whether they’ve accepted that or not. That will be their decision,” he said.

That mandate was up in the air as the Conservatives lost 12 seats and fell short of the overall majority they needed, resulting in a hung Parliament, though May has signalled she is as determined as ever to continue with negotiations as planned later this month.

“I can now form a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country. This government will guide the government through crucial Brexit talks,” she said outside Downing Street on Friday afternoon.

Still, she will struggle to convince that the elections have done nothing but add uncertainty and a diversion to an already complex process.

“Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; the timetable and EU positions are clear. Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal,” tweeted the European Commission’s chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier when the results began to emerge. “Yet another own goal ,after Cameron now May, will make already complex negotiations even more complicated,” tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative on issues relating to the Brexit negotiations.

“Our responsibility now is to secure the least disruptive Brexit. No time to lose,” tweeted EU Council President Donald Tusk, referring to the two-year period given in the now famous Article 50 for the process of negotiating an exit from the union.

Earlier, he urged both sides to do their best to avoid a “no deal” as a result of “no negotiations.”

When it comes to Britain’s approach, much will depend on the takeaways of the election by the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, on which it drew on support to form the government.

The DUP was the only party in Northern Ireland to support Brexit, though its 2017 manifesto suggests it is against a “hard Brexit”, pushing for a frictionless border with Ireland, a EU nation, as well as free trade and a customs union “arrangement” with the EU.

Hard Brexit

“It does…offer an opportunity to rethink the hard Brexit that Mrs May intended,” wrote George Osborne, former Chancellor and current editor of the Evening Standard, in the paper’s editorial on Friday.

The election proved disastrous for the UK Independence Party, which failed to win a single seat, and lost its share of the vote in individual constituencies to both the Conservative and Labour. The party’s leader Paul Nuttall stepped down on Friday to give the party the space to gain a “new focus.”

“People have spoken loud and clear and they’ve said we do not want an extreme Brexit: we do not want one that leaves the single market, that’s what was in the Conservative manifesto and that’s what they voted against,” Gina Miller, the campaigner who took the government to the Supreme Court over giving Parliament a voice on Brexit, told the BBC on Friday morning.

Published on June 09, 2017
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