Theresa May called a snap election to gain an increased majority for Brexit. However, the results did not go according to plan. May’s Conservative party lost their slim overall majority, going down from 330 seats to 318. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party exceeded expectations. He was perceived as a weak leader who was too far to the left, but surprised everyone by making significant gains for Labour – improving by 29 seats.
The validity of Brexit does not look to be in peril after the election. Labour ran on a pro-Brexit platform, but emphasized different priorities for the movement. Labour and Corbyn promised a hard Brexit, something which attracted many UKIP voters. Although, many speculate that if Labour actually formed the government, they would likely backtrack and not pursue a full exit from the EU. The only party that wanted to explicitly dismantle Brexit were the Liberal Democrats, and they only got 12 seats. 84 percent of the vote went toward parties who supported Brexit.
Many media platforms are interpreting the results of this election as a rejection of the anti-establishment mood that brought about Brexit. But to the contrary, Theresa May embodies the British establishment; and campaigned for the Remain side before the Brexit vote. If anything, this was a rejection of Theresa May.
May likely called this election to consolidate her place as Conservative leader after inheriting the position from David Cameron. The effort backfired, so the Conservatives may look to another leader in the immediate future.
May was ahead in the polls leading up to the election. But after the recent terror attack in London, she proclaimed her desire to censor the internet in an effort combat online extremism. This was a hugely unpopular sentient, and her lead in the polls instantly fell after she made the statement.
A new leader will potentially occupy the Conservative Party sooner rather than later. The front runner for this position looks to be former London mayor, Boris Johnson. Johnson supported Brexit before the vote, unlike May who campaigned against it. Johnson would be more committed to negotiating a hard Brexit. A soft Brexit would retain the single market economy and membership within he Schengen Zone.
Nigel Farage has alluded to re-entering politics because of the the results of this election. As prime architect of the Leave campaign, his presence will be welcomed by those who want to pursue a hard Brexit.
A silver lining for May emerged in the aftermath of her relative defeat. The Democratic Unionist Party, based out of Northern Ireland, obtained 10 seats in the election. They have promised to support the Conservatives through a case by case basis out of shared concerns. This gives May 328 seats and a slim majority in parliament, meaning she will remain as the Conservative leader – for now.
The Democratic Unionist Party wants a soft Brexit. Because of this, they have promised to align themselves with May. The negotiations to begin Brexit start in a week in a half, and May will head into them with the backing of a slim unofficial coalition. Despite the gains of Labour, she will begin the talks on the terms on the Conservative Party. However, because of the election results, she won’t have much leverage. This will probably be a very long and drawn out process – and may be subject to the volatility of a relatively unstable parliamentary situation.
The formation of this unofficial coalition is tentative. The Unionists could conceivably pull their support at any moment. If this happens, then another British election may likely loom.
Theresa May consolidated her losses by the skin of her teeth. But the stability of her situation is fractious, and will undoubtedly be tested.