In Brief

What do the election results mean for Brexit?

Just ten days before EU exit talks are due to begin, a minority government is far from ideal for Theresa May

Last night's general election result is more than a spanner in the works for Theresa May. Just ten days before the negotiations with EU leaders over Brexit are due to begin, a surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party has cost the Prime Minister her majority.

With the ruling party down to 318 seats – and having to cosy up to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to secure a majority – the Brexit process may be about to get even more complex.

Will Brexit be delayed?

Theresa May's lack of a majority is sparking concern that she might need to delay the talks.

Originally, the Prime Minister had scheduled the talks for 19 June, "but officials in Brussels were braced for a delay", says The Guardian - if ony for a few days. Sources say the EU's new deadline for wanting to know May's plan is the meeting of the European Council on 22 June.

But European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted on Friday: "We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a 'no deal' as a result of 'no negotiations'".

This is a reference to the fact that the UK government has already triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that starts the formal leaving process.

May, however, remained defiant in a speech outside Downing Street today, saying: "This Government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union." 

Will we still have a 'hard Brexit'?

Though May had failed to disclosed her plans for Brexit in the run-up to the election, some commentators are saying that the 'hard Brexit' that May was aiming for – a complete removal from the European single market – may no longer be possible with May's reduced authority in the House of Commons.

Writing in The Guardian, Simon Jenkins suggests that the almost complete collapse of the Ukip vote and the "probable increase in emboldened Remain MPs" would largely undermine May's stance on Hard Brexit.

"In the Commons there should now be a majority behind Corbyn's view, that no deal is worse than a soft deal," he writes.

Arlene Foster, head of the DUP that now props up May's government, also wants a softer approach.

She said: "No one wants to see a 'hard' Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union, and that's what the national vote was about – therefore we need to get on with that."

Mark Dampier, head of investment research at Hargreaves Lansdown, told the Daily Telegraph:  "Market reaction has generally been subdued so far because the Tory government will remain in power but a hard Brexit now looks less likely." 

Is it going to happen at all?

Though The Guardian reports that there are fears in the EU Parliament that the "hung parliament and weak prime minister are a 'disaster' that threaten negotiations", it seems likely that Brexit will go ahead regardless.

The style, or severity, of Brexit may not yet be known, but it's highly likely that May will try to continue with Brexit with the help of the DUP contingent backing them up, who are also pro-Brexit. 

What do EU leaders think?

Responses to the election from Brussels have been unanimously negative. Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit representative for the European Parliament, said today that the result was "yet another own goal – after Cameron now May", referring to last year's Brexit referendum. "I thought surrealism was a Belgian invention," he said, adding that the result would "make already complex negotiations even more complicated", and that "this is not only about the UK, but also about the future of Europe."

Meanwhile, Gunther Oettinger, a German politician on the European Commission, said: "We need a government that can act. With a weak negotiating partner, there's a danger the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides … I expect more uncertainty."


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