Theresa May's Conservative Party wins UK election but loses majority, leaving Brexit plan in question

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

While Theresa May remains Prime Minister of Britain, her party, the Conservative Party, won Thursday's general election but lost its majority in Parliament.

File photo of Theresa May, 2017.
Image: Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

The next scheduled general election was not until 2020. May requested this general election, called a snap election, in April, when polls indicated it would strengthen the then-slight majority the Conservatives held in Parliament. Talks to establish the specifics of Britain's departure from the European Union are set to begin June 19. Last year, British voters decided to leave the EU, but many of the specifics of the United Kingdom's new relationship with the rest of Europe have yet to be established. May and the other Conservatives favor a "hard Brexit", in which Britain would lose its current level of access to Europe's single market and have to deal with higher tariffs and more complicated customs processes but it would regain full control of its borders with respect to trade and immigration. An increase in the number of Conservative Parliamentary seats would have supported this plan.

"Officially Theresa May is still the partner in Brexit negotiations," said senior German MP Stephan Meyer, "but the political reality is different after this disastrous defeat. I can't imagine that May will be able to remain prime minister."

Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission said, "As far as the Commission is concerned we can open negotiations tomorrow morning at half past nine [...] First we have to agree on the divorce and exit modalities, and then we have to envisage the architecture of our future relations. I do hope that the result of the elections will have no major impact on the negotiations we are desperately waiting for."

A Parliamentary majority requires 326 of the organisation's 650 seats. The Conservative Party holds 318 outright, including May's own seat in Maidenhead, and the Labour Party holds 262, having gained about 30 in this election. In Britain, the leader of whichever political party has the most seats becomes Prime Minister, though they are also formally appointed by the monarch. Theresa May became leader of the Conservative Party on July 11 of last year and was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II two days later. Cases in which no political party wins outright are called a hung Parliament, and then two or more parties rule together in coalition. Britain had a coalition government from 2010 to 2015. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has pledged an unofficial alliance with the Conservatives, which would bring them up to 328.

This would make May the second Prime Minister in a row to call an election with unexpected results. David Cameron called for a referendum on Britain's EU membership, not expecting the voters would reject it.

May's current ministry said most of her senior officials, including Treasurer Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, will remain in the Cabinet.

May met with Queen Elizabeth II yesterday to request her permission to form a government in her name, a traditional formality.


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