UPDATE: As her hopes for a landslide victory for her Conservative party were quashed in the early hours of Friday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to form a minority government with far-right Northern Ireland party the Democratic Unionists.
May made a brief statement this afternoon outside of 10 Downing Street after meeting with the Queen where she said the Conservatives and DUP, the latter of which has strict policies on abortion and gay marriage, would work together “in the interests of the United Kingdom.” She said the two parties would work to “provide certainty” and keep the country “safe.”
May notably did not refer directly to the fact that her party failed to form a majority government in the snap election, an election which May originally said she would never call for after she came to be party leader, and subsequently Prime Minister, when David Cameron resigned from the post following the Brexit vote last June. Conservatives have so far lost 12 seats in the House of Commons following this election with 318 seats (48.9% of the vote). They needed 326 seats for a majority. DUP earned 10 seats today.
In the brief statement, May said that over the next five years she promised to “ build a country in which no one and no community is left behind. A country in which prosperity and opportunity are shared right across this UK.”
She added that Conservatives and the DUP would work together, which would “allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone in this country, securing a new partnership with the EU which guarantees our long-term prosperity.”
“That’s what the people voted for last June, that’s what we will deliver. Now let’s get to work.”
She indicated that Brexit negotiations, which are due to begin in 11 days, would go ahead as planned. Throughout her campaign, May beat the drum on the Brexit issue in a bid to win voters, ensuring the public that she and her party were the only ones strong enough to negotiate the best deal for Britain. Last year, May sat in the remain camp, voting for the UK to stay in the EU.
Before this afternoon, it’s fair to say that DUP policies were not well-known amongst the wider UK population and now the party may hold the balance of power, people are taking note. DUP opposes same sex marriage in Northern Ireland and looks to lift the ban on abortion. In the UK, same sex marriage is legal as is abortion, but DUP has been instrumental in blocking them in Northern Ireland in recent years.
DUP newly re-elected MP Sammy Wilson, a former environment minister for Northern Ireland, once said global warming was a “con.”
PREVIOUS 1.21 AM PT: In another twist to the UK political landscape, the country is facing a hung Parliament after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party failed to win enough votes to keep an overall majority in the House of Commons in yesterday’s snap election.
Conservatives did have an overall majority as constituency seats were called out throughout the evening and early hours of Friday, but not enough to win a majority. This means that not only does May’s party have less seats in government than when she went into the election, Conservatives do not have enough seats to vote through new laws without being defeated by their opponents.
May, who has largely been criticized for a weak campaign and accused of calling the snap election in a bid to gain more seats in the House of Commons, has announced that she will not resign. She said the country “needs stability” after the inconclusive election.
The results had an effect on UK-based entertainment stocks with ITV down 2.7% in early morning trading, and Sky dipping 2%. The British pound also dropped dramatically on Friday morning, falling around 2.3% lower against the U.S. dollar at $1.265. Sterling further plunged to a seven-month low against the euro, dropping 2.2% to €1.1287.
This is reminiscent of the hangover from last June’s shocking Brexit vote, which saw 51.9% of Britons elect to leave the European Union. That result cast a question mark over the future of the UK with regard to big business and the media and entertainment sectors. The lower pound, however, has been a boon for Hollywood studios who are increasingly basing their productions in Britain.
The BBC has reported that May will intend to try and govern on the basis that her party had won the largest number of votes and seats. There have also been suggestions that May could try to form an alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose controversial policies include stopping gay marriage, in order to form a government without a majority.
British media has been awash with the fact that this snap election has been a political gamble gone wrong for the Conservative party and has thrust the UK into another uncertain political environment. Questions surrounding the issue of Brexit negotiations, which are due to start in 11 days’ time, have been prevalent.
Speaking on German radio, EU Commissioner Gunther Oettinger suggested that Brexit talks may have to be delayed after the hung Parliament result. “We need a government that can act,” said Oettinger. “With a weak negotiating partner, there’s the danger that the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides…I expect more uncertainty now.”
Throughout the election, May pressed heavily on the Brexit issue saying that she wanted a mandate to be able to start negotiations from the EU divorce on June 19. “Every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand [during] Brexit negotiations,” she said last month.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party told the BBC this morning that it was ready to form a minority government in the House of Commons. “We’re ready to form a government… we are willing to serve the country,” he said. “I don’t think the Conservative government is stable, I don’t think the Prime Minister is stable. I don’t want to be derogatory, but I think she is a lame duck now.”
With three seats left to declare at the time of publication, Conservatives sat at 316 seats, down 12 seats from 2015’s general election, while Corbyn’s Labour Party reaped the benefits of a strong campaign, up 29 seats at 261. The finishing line for an overall majority is 326.