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Unclear prospects for Brexit talks

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-12 07:01

Britain's Primer Minister Theresa May addresses the country after Britain's election at Downing Street in London, Britain, June 9, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

After an election debacle on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May saw her Conservative Party lose its parliamentary majority just days before Britain is due to start talks on its departure from the European Union.

May had expected a sweeping victory and thus called the snap election to strengthen her hand in the EU divorce talks. But a resurgent Labour Party smashed her hopes by denying her an outright win.

At the time when May called the snap election seven weeks ago, polls predicted she would increase the slim majority she had inherited from her predecessor David Cameron. However, May's proposals on tax reforms distanced her from wealthy voters. In comparison, the old-school socialist platform of the Labour Party and more impassioned campaigning style of its leader Jeremy Corbyn won wider support than expected. Two Islamist militant attacks in the late stages of the campaign, one in Manchester and one in London, that killed 30 people, also shifted the focus of the election to security issues, a development that was to May's disadvantage, given that May's previous role was as Home Secretary for six years during which she oversaw large cuts in the number of police officers.

Considering the complex talks on Britain's divorce from the EU are due to start on June 19, it remains unclear what influence the hung parliament will produce and whether the "hard Brexit" approach previously expected to take Britain out of a single European market will still be pursued. In fact, the unexpected political developments mean a possible delay in the start of Brexit talks and an increased risk that negotiations will fail.

With the smaller parties more closely aligned with Labour than with the Conservatives, the prospect of Corbyn becoming British prime minister no longer seems unimaginable. But what is certain is a politically uncertain Britain will make the course of Brexit even harder to predict.



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