Theresa May’s gamble backfires

Prime Minister Theresa May is the biggest loser in the aftermath of the UK general election. It is quite possible that the Tory party leader will have to accept the political consequences of this electoral defeat and step down within the next few days. Regardless of whether this happens or not, the Tories have two options if they want to stay in power: either the Conservatives will attempt to rule as a minority government or they will form a coalition with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which would just about manage to create a slender majority.

The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has emerged as the major winner in this parliamentary election. However, it will not be enough for him to become Prime Minister at the moment. Even a three-party coalition between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish SNP would not be enough for a majority, and in any case, this type of set-up is hard to imagine given that, historically, the country is not exactly used to being ruled by coalition governments.

The election result will definitely have consequences for the upcoming Brexit discussions. If Theresa May holds on to power there will only be a short delay before the start of negotiations. We can expect very little change in the British strategy – in the end, it was not the Tories’ Brexit plan which led to their defeat, rather domestic issues and election campaign errors. However, the risk of a “hard Brexit” has decreased somewhat. Both the slim majority in the new parliament and a coalition government would make it significantly harder to pursue a hard-line policy during Brexit proceedings. Additionally, the government must ultimately secure a majority in parliament for the outcome of negotiations. This will certainly be much easier to achieve in the new parliament if the negotiating strategy is moderated somewhat.

For now, there is no doubt that May has not been able to achieve her goal of using the election to strengthen her hand before entering Brexit negotiations. In fact, the exact opposite has happened.

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