‘Brexit in jeopardy,’ says UK Independence leader, as his party appears shut out of Parliament – Washington Post

‘Brexit in jeopardy,’ says UK Independence leader, as his party appears shut out of Parliament – Washington Post


UK Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall speaks to supporters as he campaigns with the party’s candidate in Clacton-on-Sea in eastern England, on May 20, 2017. (Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.K. Independence Party, which saw the heart of its platform ratified when British voters chose last year to take the country out of the European Union, appears to have lost its raison d’être. And its leadership now fears that its prized goal may be in doubt.

An exit poll late Thursday predicted that the fiercely Euroskeptic party would lose its single seat in Parliament, as its support fell by 11 percent across the country.

The ruling Conservatives were expected to absorb much of UKIP’s support, as Theresa May, the prime minister, embraced a severe version of Brexit. She called the snap election in April with the aim of strengthening her hand going into difficult divorce negotiations with Europe.

Her majority, however, could be in doubt, as the poll, which is subject to possible revision, suggested that the Conservatives may fall short of the necessary 326 seats.

As the early results came in, UKIP’s leader, Paul Nuttall, tweeted that May had “put Brexit in jeopardy.” He accused the prime minister, who had backed the remain position before ascending to the premiership and reversing her stance, of “hubris.”

“Brexit means Brexit,” May famously declared, in explaining her resolve to move forward with the split despite her initial preference that Britain remain in the bloc. Having called the election at a time when polls showed her party in a commanding lead over Labour, she led what observers described as a thoroughly uninspiring campaign.

“When voters see May rather than just hear her described as strong and stable, she’s a bloody terrible performer,” said Geoffrey Evans, a political scientist at the University of Oxford.

The uncertainty of the early predictions throws the conditions surrounding the departure into doubt. Brexit negotiations were expected to begin in about 10 days. Britain has already triggered Article 50, the formal notice of withdrawal, and opinions differ on whether that is reversible. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, believes it is.

In the event that May does not eke out a majority, it is a virtual unknown what sort of position a new, coalition government would adopt. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has been accused of failing to stake out a clear position on Brexit, even facing a vote of no confidence last year over his lackluster defense of the remain position. The center-left Liberal Democrats, who appeared poised Thursday to expand their influence modestly, were the only party to campaign on a redo referendum.

Even if May retains a majority, her position will be severely weakened, Evans said. And she could be axed by her own party.

“If May actually fails to increase her support level, having gone for this as some sort of coronation, then they get rid of her,” he predicted. “She won’t last.”

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