Theresa May’s Close Relationship with President Trump Could Be Costing Her Election Lead

June 2, 2017, 2:30 PM UTC
U.K. Opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn Delivers A Speech On Brexit Negotiations Ahead Of The General Election
An attendee holds a banner with the slogan 'Make June the end of May' in support of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, as he delivers a speech on brexit negotiations, as part of the party's general-election campaign in London, U.K., on Thursday, June 1, 2017. While few people expect Corbyn to pull an upset and become the first prime minister in more than a century to sport a beard, his personal rating on who would be the best prime minister has doubled to 30 percent from 15 percent when May called the election on April 18. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement will have many unintended consequences. The first could be the loss of his most important ally in Europe: Theresa May.

A new poll out Friday by research firm Ipsos Mori shows that May’s Conservative Party is now only five points ahead of a resurgent left-wing Labour Party. The lead has shrunk from 20 points earlier in the campaign. Given how wrong U.K. pollsters were in both the 2015 general election and the Brexit referendum last year, it’s no longer inconceivable that May’s Tories will end up losing seats in the House of Commons next week, rather than building on their majority, as May had hoped when she gambled on a snap election six weeks ago.

Things have only gotten worse over the last 24 hours for May, who made a big deal of Trump’s support for Brexit in her trip to the White House in January. The close relationship that she boasted of at the time is less of an asset in the light of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate deal, a deal broadly supported in the U.K. According to an Ipsos poll last year, 88% of respondents thought climate change was real, and 64% thought it was mainly caused by human activity.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pounced on the opportunity to tar his opponent by association with Europe’s bogeyman Friday. He played up her refusal to join a statement by the leaders of Germany, France and Italy criticizing Trump’s actions, calling it a “dereliction of duty to our country and our planet.”

“Given the chance to present a united front with our international partners, she has instead opted for silence and subservience to Donald Trump,” the Guardian quoted Corbyn as saying. 10 Downing Street said May had called Trump to express her “disappointment.”

Source: Ipsos Mori

A Labour victory would signal a political earthquake in the U.K. The party is running on its most unabashed Socialist manifesto in over 30 years, promising to re-nationalize the country’s railroads and utilities, as well as to raise taxes on business and on the wealthy. Quite apart from that, a Labour government would also throw the whole future of Brexit into confusion. The party has promised to honor last year’s referendum result, but has left itself more room to backtrack and is more squeamish about the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal to prevent “cliff-edge effects” on trade and investment after 2019.