Hung parliament could jeopardise Brexit timetable – Sky News
When Theresa May made her shock announcement on 18 April calling a general election, she said it was “to make a success of Brexit”.
A hung Parliament of the kind produced by the 2010 election must surely throw the Prime Minister’s preferred Brexit timetable into doubt.
First, a government may not be in place by 19 June, when detailed negotiations with Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier are due to begin.
And if there is to be another general election later this year or early next year, the whole two-year plan for Brexit could be wrecked.
Justifying her decision to call a “Brexit election”, the PM said back in April: “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.”
And accusing the Opposition parties of “political game playing”, she said: “Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.”
Well, if the exit poll is anywhere near correct, Westminster is going to be more divided than it was before Mrs May took her gamble.
Veteran Europhile Ken Clarke, breaking his silence after a three-month illness that required heart surgery, almost appeared to be gloating when he said: “Perhaps a little more cross-party discussion, particularly on Brexit, and a little less shouting slogans.”
And Lord Newby, the Lib Dems’ leader in the Lords has told Sky News that those who disagree with the Tories’ Brexit approach “will be emboldened”.
They certainly will. And perhaps some of those MPs who voted for Article 50 in the Commons and the Lords back in March now regret doing so.
In the palaces and chancelleries of Europe – not to mention in Brussels – the presidents, prime ministers and European Commission bureaucrats will no doubt be chortling with uncontrolled glee at the humiliation that Mrs May could be heading for.
One can imagine the thirsty Jean-Claude Juncker pouring himself another large Cognac and Germany’s Angela Merkel quaffing another of those huge beers she swigged at a campaign event just 11 days ago.
Throughout the election campaign, the PM has repeated over and over again that Brexit negotiations begin just 11 days after the General Election.
In her final rally of the campaign, in Birmingham on Wednesday, she said it again and claimed once more that only she could offer the “strong and stable leadership to get the best deal in Europe”.
The other Brexit slogan she kept repeating during the campaign was that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
With the benefit of hindsight, she perhaps should have been careful what she wished for.
It was the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Monsieur Barnier, who set 19 June as his favoured date for the start of Brexit talks, which are due to last around 14-18 months.
There is no reason why that could not be postponed. But if that happens the negotiations will have to be speeded up.
That’s because the date of Britain’s departure from the EU is due to take place exactly two years after the triggering of the Article 50 Brexit process, on 29 March, 2019 – whether or not a withdrawal deal has been reached.
Under the terms of Article 50 of the EU treaties, the two-year deadline for the UK to leave the union can be extended only with the agreement of the other 27 member states.
The European Council president, Donald Tusk, has said he believes Article 50 can be reversed. But Theresa May has insisted there is no turning back.
In one of her most colourful claims during the election campaign, the PM said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s minders can put him into a smart blue suit for an interview with Jeremy Paxman.
“But with his position on Brexit, he will find himself alone and naked in the negotiating chamber of the European Union.”
Suddenly – even though it’s only an exit poll and few election results have been declared – two possibilities have opened up.
One is that it might be Mr Corbyn and not her in the negotiating chamber of the EU, even if he leads a minority government, which is a possibility, if the exit poll is anywhere near accurate.
And the other is that she will look very exposed when she sets foot into the negotiations.