This we know: there’s no majority for a hard Brexit – The Guardian
All the same, Theresa May isn’t planning to go anywhere, nor to deviate from her Brexit timetable, despite the terrible self-inflicted wound of this unnecessary, unwanted election. Her bid for her own mandate has been thrown back in her face. The so-called Brexit election has added almost nothing to voters’ understanding of the biggest challenge the country has faced in two generations.
Yet in the way the votes fell there is an unmistakable message: across England, the more unexpected the Labour gains, the more obviously they map onto the remain vote of just a year ago. It looks as if Labour, despite its uncertain pitch, has in fact become the party of remainers, or at least the party of soft Brexit. Looking at the Tory results, that feels even truer: the reverse takeover of the party by Ukip is reflected in its wins in the northern half of England among the biggest leave-voting areas.
The first fight, over how to own the result, is uneasily resolved by May’s brittle Downing Street statement at lunchtime, announcing that she would form a government in informal alliance with the DUP. Now a cabinet reshuffle is under way. Senior Tories have been conspicuously silent on the outcome. The only voices raised in support of May this morning were the voices of the militant Brexiters John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith, who see the opportunity to imprison May in their world view and intend to do all they can to protect her from those who want her to go.
The ex-chancellor George Osborne was up most of the night, helpfully reminding viewers that May had always said the loss of just six seats would mean defeat, and agreeing with his one-time opposite number Ed Balls that she had no authority left. Another ardent pro-European Tory who is still an MP, Anna Soubry, has perfected the art of knifing her bete noir with a sympathetic smile. Seemingly available for every on-air studio, she has called for May to go whenever the chance has arisen. Other less controversial figures, such as Sarah Wollaston, are not even trying to disguise their anger at the botched campaign.
May is right about one thing. There is no time to waste. The negotiations are scheduled to start in earnest in less than a fortnight. Article 50, triggered at the end of March, is already two months into its 24-month time span, and a delay is only possible with the unanimous agreement of the remaining 27. And although law is almost invariably subsidiary to political imperatives in Brussels, there is no scheme yet by which this could be unravelled.
May’s strategic blunder of first setting the clock on exit in motion, and then throwing everything up into the air by calling an election, must rank as the biggest self-inflicted catastrophe of the past 100 years.
#Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; timetable and EU positions are clear. Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal
Meanwhile, the EU negotiators were up early this morning, making the kind of thoughtful offers of delay that could be interpreted as schadenfreude: first Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament negotiator, then the commission’s Michel Barnier, have made gestures of calm: no pressure, let’s start when everything’s settled down, they say. Barnier tweeted : “#Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; timetable and EU positions are clear. Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal.” That sounds rather as if they didn’t expect to see May back at the negotiating table again.
The message from May is that nothing has changed: but everything has changed. She has lost. There is now nearly a majority in the Commons who campaigned either for a second referendum on Brexit, or for the softest possible departure. Remainers are already dreaming of a cross-party progressive alliance that unites parties from the SNP, Lib Dems and Labour with Europhile Tories. In terms of share of the vote, this broadly soft-Brexit collective could claim to have won well over 50%, to the Tories’ 43%. The immediate pressure should be a renewed bid to make sure that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons abroad are guaranteed. The Tories have become the official party of a hard Brexit. It is worth remembering that any replacement for May as party leader would only take a harder line.
Meanwhile, the DUP, in its role as prop for a minority Tory government, will insist that powers that are returned from Brussels will pass direct to Belfast (and Edinburgh and Cardiff).
But the only thing that’s really certain is that nothing is certain. It’s going to be an interesting weekend.
If I lose just six seats I will lose this election and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with Europe: https://t.co/OwbfDseOJh