With negotiations now formally underway, questions are looming as to the ability of the Conservative government to facilitate Brexit. After a seemingly endless election campaign, Theresa May both won and lost the general election. Won, in the respect that her party was the largest party in the Commons. Lost, by losing a vital parliamentary majority in pursuit of a personal mandate and forming a minority government through a tawdry deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. Indeed, the only reason the Prime Minister is still in office is through fear that her resignation will incite another general election.
Questions and criticism about Theresa May’s position and conduct have pervaded the agenda and will continue to do so. Yet, what wider implications will this general election have on securing a Brexit deal? While officially, the government’s policy regarding Brexit remain unaltered: Britain will leave the single market and customs union and dismiss the European Court of Justice. It is evident now that the Conservatives may struggle to pursue the hard-Brexit; the single-most contributing factor in calling this election.
May’s alliance with the DUP will only narrowly give her the numbers she needs to pass legislation through Parliament, but even this is not a fait accompli. The election result has catapulted the UK’s stance on Brexit into a thick political smog of uncertainty, with the outcome of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU looking seemingly distorted. The original hard-Brexit outlook of the Tories is now open to debate, with the membership of the single market and free movement all on offer as the UK may have no choice but to capitulate and seek a “soft Brexit”.
In the lead-up to the general election, the message from Theresa May during the campaign was to strengthen her hand in Brexit. With a result no one in the Conservative Party could have hoped for, it is no surprise that Guy Vehofstadt remarked: “after Cameron, now May will make already complex negotiation even more complicated.” Unfortunately for Theresa May, it would seem that the pursuit of a personal mandate combined with a somewhat shoddy election campaign has jeopardised not only her only chance to strengthen her position and parliamentary majority but left the state of Britain’s future regarding Europe hanging in the balance. With more pro-European MPs sitting in the legislature, the animosity will only get stronger, testing the country to its limits.
Since the referendum, it is fair to say that neither the executive or opposition have provided the British people with a real ‘vision’ for Britain outside of the EU. The reassurance from Mrs May that ‘we will take back control’ seemingly appears to be a remark borne out of mere political conjecture.