The UK is deeply divided in face of forthcoming Brexit negotiations
CONSERVATIVE leader Theresa May has suffered a catastrophic blow in the General Election, losing overall control of the House of Commons.
The election, called in April for 8 June, was supposed to put to bed any obstacles facing May in the coming period of difficult negotiations with the EU over the UK’s exit from the 28 member bloc.
Instead, it has weakened her hand, destabilised the government, strengthened the opposition and complicated the UK’s constitutional crisis.
From the Brexit mess, to Northern Ireland and the re-birth of radical politics, the UK could face a tumultuous coming period.
CommonSpace looks at some of the key factors.
1. Brexit bombshell
Right now, around Brussels, the echo of laughter can be heard. The outcome of a hung parliament is an EU negotiators dream.
May was scheduled to begin negotiations, with what she thought would be an improved majority, just days after the election. Now she has no majority and there are calls from her own colleagues to resign.
She has lost major political capital to a Labour opponent with a completely different set of priorities when it comes to the negotiations.
The country is clearly more divided than ever as it goes into negotiations, and the head of the UK’s Brexit negotiation is discredited for all to see.
2. May’s weak and wobbly Conservatives
The Conservative party is prone to infighting, and May’s disastrous gamble will likely stir tensions between factions.
May was thought wise to have largely absented herself from the EU referendum debate, as she emerged as a natural leader untarnished by a bruising campaign.
But this meant that she always had a fairly narrow base of support in the party, a weakness she sought to bridge by bringing both leading Brexiteers and party liberals into her cabinet.
May’s already weak base of support in the party has been made worse with the loss of eight of her front bench team.
Worse, the factions with opposing views over Brexit will now be eager to re-shape the party with a leader who shares their view, now that the traditionally fence sitting May’s days may be numbered.
3. Northern Ireland and a DUP coalition
May is now expected to organise either a coalition or a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, a hard right unionist party in Northern Ireland, in order to make up the majority she has lost.
The DUP is an extremely divisive political force, with its background in protestant fundamentalism and long history of association with Ulster Loyalist terrorism in Northern Ireland.
The DUP, with just ten seats, could use their position to extract large concessions from the UK Government, including on the Brexit deal, which the DUP will seek influence on because of the importance of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the EU.
The DUP and its views and history could prove a destabilising force for May’s government. Most seriously of all, any deal could risk further destabilisation in Northern Ireland, where a political deadlock means there is currently no power sharing government between the DUP and the republican party Sinn Fein.
4. A rejuvenated opposition
Not only has May damaged her own position, she has strengthened the positon of her chief opposition.
Labour fought a strong campaign that encroached on many Tory heartlands. The notion of a weak opposition with an ‘unelectable’ leader has been banished.
What’s more, the current leader of the Labour party is willing to use populist messaging and mass mobilisation to fight for political leadership in the country, tools the Conservatives have proved unable to wield so far.
5. A vindication for social movements
From the looks of things, everyone who ever told you ‘marching from A to B doesn’t achieve anything’ was totally wrong.
Corbyn himself was a leading figure in the anti-war movement, as were many of his inner circle and the architects of his campaign. Labour members and supporters have repeatedly cited.
Former Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg lost his seat in Sheffield Hallam, a seat with a large student population. Undoubtedly this was final revenge for students who vehemently protested his support in 2010 for coalition government plans to increase university tuition fees.
The political establishment is clearly vulnerable to political movements which have emerged in the last 15 years.
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