It has been interesting, to say the least, to observe the political system work its magic in the United Kingdom over the last few months. Just when many thought the Conservative party was ready to begin negotiations with Europe, Prime Minister Theresa May chose to call a new election in order to consolidate her support as Brexit approached. However, the election ultimately had the opposite effect, in large part due to May’s negative appearance in the public eye. In many ways, May ran the antithesis of a winning campaign, as policies including increased regulation of the internet not only failed to gain the popular support she was hoping for, but rather pushed voters away from her party. Meanwhile, her opponent, Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, energized many in Britain to take a stand against her. However, in the end, the efforts of his supporters made no change in leadership, as May remained Prime Minister by forming an alliance with the leading conservative party of Northern Ireland, the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).
Despite the fact that May remains in office, the shocking results of this election could very well change the way that Brexit is negotiated. This could result in major consequences in the global economy and the UK’s overall reputation around the world, both positive and negative. May had hoped for what many called a “hard” Brexit, which would entail strong negotiation from the UK in hopes of striking a favorable deal across the board. Now, with the results of this election, it will become much more difficult for the Conservative Party to pass any legislation concerning Brexit, as they must rely on another party (the aforementioned DUP) to get anything done.
For many in Europe, this creates more skepticism about whether a deal can actually be realized. For example, Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta, has stated that he is “starting to believe Brexit will not happen.” This is coming from someone very well-informed on the negotiations, as Malta held presidency of the EU from January until June of this year. The hopeful speculation by “remain” voters that Brexit would fall through is therefore starting to look like a possible reality. However, there will most likely not be any major action for quite a while due to the increasingly complex nature of negotiations, therefore neither side can currently declare a victory. If May had run a better campaign, or if she had never called an election in the first place, the UK would have had much more leverage to negotiate a strong Brexit. Instead, the future of Britain is in limbo.
Many see these developments as a sign that the situation in the UK is worsening, but perhaps all the uncertainty isn’t so bad. After all, only about 52 percent of voters actually wanted Brexit in the first place. Had May’s Conservatives gained seats in the recent election, it would have been much easier for their supporters and party members to dictate the tone and concept of broader negotiations with Europe, thus essentially ignoring the desires of the other 48 percent. Instead, the absence of a Conservative majority means that a larger range of opinions must be taken into account within May’s own country; if the negotiations go the wrong way, it won’t take much for the whole thing to fall through.
An approach to Brexit that is more considerate of the views of all citizens is the best way to go. Ultimately, this is a huge decision that will help direct the future of the UK for decades to come. If negotiations go badly, and if negotiations go against the will of the people, then Brexit could one day be looked back on as one of the biggest geopolitical mistakes of the century. Therefore, the result of the recent election was a good thing for the UK; not because May remained in power, but because it allows Britain’s government to step back, consider everything, and make the best decision for the future of their country.