Wednesday

13th Dec 2017

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's drive for one-party Brexit state

  • Theresa May entering Downing Street last July. A decisive election win will give May a personal mandate to negotiate a tough or hard Brexit. (Photo: Number 10/Flickr)

Theresa May’s snap election call on Tuesday (18 April) took Westminster by surprise, but it makes a lot of sense.

The official reason May gave for calling the poll is that Britain needs "certainty, stability and strong leadership" in its transition of leaving the EU, but is being opposed by "Remoaners" in Labour, Scotland, and the House of Lords.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Tim Farron will position his Liberal Democrats as the party of the "48 percent" who voted to remain in the EU. (Photo: LibDems/Facebook)

The real reason is that she is confident, understandably, that she can win big.

Most surveys put the Conservatives 15-20 points ahead of a bitterly divided Labour Party, and the Conservatives will expect to secure a majority of over 100.

The obvious accusation is that holding a snap election, having spent months insisting that there was no need for one, is cynical party politics.

Still, if being self-interested and opportunistic were a crime, every politician would be in prison.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act, means that May cannot call an election directly, but getting the support of two-thirds of MPs for a motion to hold a poll will be a formality.

The vote on 8 June will be the first general election in which EU relations will be a dominant issue. In fact, it will be a single-issue election for a single-issue government.

A decisive election win would give May a personal mandate to negotiate a tough or hard Brexit. Despite their dominance, the Conservatives only have a majority of 12 - it would only take a handful of rebel MPs for government to lose key EU-related votes.

A mandate and a big majority negates this threat and would kill off the prospect of Parliament rejecting the terms that May brings back from Brussels.

This would also kill off the idea of a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, and close down the argument that the electorate had not given consent to withdraw from the single market.

Whether voters will be happy with the economic effects of a hard Brexit and a return to World Trade Organisation terms with the EU will be a moot point. No one can say they were not warned.

Labour is trapped

Most opposition parties are happy to fight early elections. It is an earlier than expected chance to obtain power. For Labour, it is more likely a golden opportunity to lose another election.

The best that its beleaguered supporters can hope for is that a defeat would rid them of Jeremy Corbyn’s widely-derided leadership. Labour is polling at around 25 percent, and heading for its worst result in over 80 years.

A reluctant "Remainer", Corbyn will not want to talk about Europe. His reaction statement focused on the government’s economic record of "falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS". These are worthy issues but they have not gained much traction with voters in the 20 months since he became party leader.

In short, Labour is trapped. Most of its MPs and party activists supported the Remain campaign and are bitterly disappointed by the result. Most of the seats it holds are constituencies where there was a majority Leave vote. Since the referendum, Labour has wrestled with this dilemma without resolving it.

By pitching herself so clearly as the prime minister for Brexit, May is also making a move to kill off the UK Independence Party (Ukip).

Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party last month, while one of their Welsh Assembly members, Mark Reckless, defected to the Conservatives. Faced by a Conservative leader who has stolen their clothes, it is hard to see how Ukip can survive.

The 48-percent party

But not everybody will lose. An early poll is a golden opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to recover some of the lost ground from their near wipe-out in 2015, when they slumped from 57 to eight seats.

Their leader, Tim Farron, has positioned his team as the party of the "48 percent" - who voted to remain in the EU - and will expect to recover some of their lost supporters.

If the election makes good sense for English party politics, it is hard to see that a June election will solve the looming constitutional crises in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish National Party will expect to hold most, if not all, of the 56 seats out of 59 that they took in 2015.

Scotish leader Nicola Sturgeon’s vow to protect Scotland “from a Tory party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right” underscores the sense of separation between Tory England and Nationalist Scotland.

There is "no turning back" from Brexit, May said on Tuesday. For the foreseeable future, she is probably correct. The odds are stacked in favour of 8 June entrenching her one-party Brexit state.

May surprises EU with snap election

The UK prime minister has blamed the parliament for divisions in the country and called for a vote on 8 June, which she hopes will result in a pro-Brexit majority. The EU says the vote will not change its plans.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Don't copy us, we're British

The havoc caused by the unexpected referendum result on June 23 could serve as a stark warning to the EU-27: fail to prepare - prepare to fail.

MPs urge May to put price tag on Brexit

The UK parliament's Brexit committee said that the prime minister's claim that a "no deal is better than a bad deal" for the UK is "unsubstantiated", and called on the government to assess the consequences of leaving the EU.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Brexit: Between a rock and a hard place

As EU commission chief Juncker put it, "everybody will lose" if pig-headed nationalism in the UK and the EU led to a messy and expensive divorce. The controversy over Gibraltar doesn't bode well.

Juncker to visit May in London next week

The British prime minister invited the European Commission president for a discussion about the upcoming EU exit negotiations, while she prepares for general elections on 8 June with a "hard" Brexit agenda.

Brexit is about Europe's future as well

Europe must learn the lessons of TTIP and ensure that the negotiations transparently address the broad interests of European citizens, including on climate change and the environment.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level