Your handy guide to Theresa May’s snap election snafu and what it means for Brexit.

By Geoffrey Smith
June 22, 2017

When U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election in April, polls showed that she would win a big mandate for her high-risk Brexit strategy—which entailed leaving the EU’s Single Market and its customs union in two years flat, even, if need be, without negotiating any future trading arrangements.

But her electoral gamble backfired spectacularly after voters went to the polls in June. Her Conservatives lost their slim majority in Parliament and are now hanging on to power only with the support of the fundamentalist Protestant Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Her authority in tatters, May is now under pressure from all sides. The Tories’ right wing wants a “hard” EU exit regardless. Business, hoping to avoid getting slammed by Brexit’s full impact in 2019, is making a fresh push for a lengthy transition (enraging the Tory hard-liners, who see it as a prelude to betraying the referendum mandate). Meanwhile, the DUP’s desire to avoid reerecting a border with the Republic of Ireland is in direct conflict with popular pressure for tighter control of immigration.

U.K. politics was a mess even before June 8. It’s an unholy one now.

A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “So Much for That Brexit Mandate.”

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