The British election didn’t quite go according to plan for Prime Minister Theresa May. After all the votes have been counted up the conservative party is in the paradoxical situation of having lost its majority in parliament, which is a major embarrassment, and at the same time securing the highest popular vote in a long time. May has struck a deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, to form a new government.
In the wake of the British shock-exit from the European Union, the Conservative Party surged in the polls, absorbing many disillusioned Labour voters and most UK Independence Party voters who no longer had any need for a dedicated Brexit party. Then Prime Minister David Cameron is a globalist and had staked his political career on remaining in the EU. When he lost he withdrew, and Theresa May stepped in to fill his shoes. She had to fill the challenging role of leading the Brexit negotiations with the EU.
Since May was technically not elected by the people, she announced a general election to secure a proper and unquestionable popular mandate. As such, this election could be seen as a Brexit 2.0. This time the question to be answered was not whether to leave or stay, but whether it should be a hard- or a soft Brexit. The video below gives a quick introduction to the political fault lines in that debate, with May on the hard side, and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn on the soft side.
Initially, political pundits predicted that May would win with a breeze because Corbyn is a left-wing radical who mingles with Marxists. He had also publically made concessions to the EU, essentially giving up key negotiation points. With Corbyn in power, the United Kingdom would, therefore, be certain to end up with a dreadful deal, and an ideologue harkening back to the 1970s.
But during the campaign, something went wrong. Many Brexit voters were dismayed to see that the campaign became cluttered with minute domestic issues rather than focusing on the Brexit negotiations, and May ran a mediocre campaign. Conservative Member of Parliament Sarah Wollaston told the Guardian:
“For me, there were two things that started it: fox hunting and the social care package. That was the turning point in my area, where you could see an extraordinary shift from overwhelming support to incomprehension about the policies. You had a very tight-knit group who wrote the manifesto and didn’t consult with colleagues with experience and expertise. It was drafted by a very small group who didn’t show it to anyone and I could certainly have told them the social care would have bombed having been on the care bill committee and done the job in practice. People need to listen to voices within the party. But there were many things that went wrong, including the personal US attack dog-style politics and people ended up feeling sorry for Jeremy Corbyn.”
Strategic errors allowed Labour to gain momentum in the polls, and although it was not enough to win a majority, it reaffirmed Corbyn’s leadership within the Labour Party.
So now that May has secured the mandate she requested from British voters, albeit on somewhat shaky ground, what can we expect from the negotiations with the EU? If she lives up to her promises, we may see something akin to a hard Brexit, which means a full or partial exit from the EU Single Market.
The Single Market has four pillars at its core: freedom of movement for capital, goods, services, and people. The single-most contested of these four is the freedom of movement of people, especially in the wake of the migrant crisis. Britain has seen a massive influx of people from the EU and third world countries in the last twenty years, and a majority of Brits are concerned for obvious reasons. Their number one issue, as in the U.S. is to regain control over their borders.
At the same time, most people are worried about the negotiations. Some believe that a bad deal with the EU is better than no deal at all, which may partially explain the election.
This result has placed Theresa May in a conundrum. She pushed for a hard line but may need to compromise and appease other parties in Parliament to get the majority she needs. What this spells for Britain is uncertain, but there can be no question that May has come out weaker as a result of this election than she went into it.