May led Britain to chaos, now looks for way out with unpredictable DUP

10 Downing Street, London. Prime Minister’s Office (UK Government work).

As the dust settles after last week’s electoral pandemonium in Britain, the country finds itself in a true political chaos. Prime Minster Theresa May is overtly and severely disputed within her own party, while the closeness of the percentage results between Tories (42%) and Labour (40%) has totally changed the overall scenery of the political horizon. There is May, not pretending any more she is on top of the situation, and Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the successful major opposition who has predicted a new election possibly within the year. The prospect of a minority Tory government, backed by the Northern Ireland extreme right wing and ultra anti-EU Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), doesn’t enthuse anyone.

The problem is that Brexit is still covered with thick mist, only one week ahead of the first meeting between the British and the EU negotiators. One whole year has elapsed since the Brexit vote of June 2016 and the country is in completely unable to even sketch a general direction for a way out. Amidst that chaos, 10 Downing Street proclaims and wants everybody else to believe that ‘it’s business as usual’. It’s either that Theresa May lives on another planet, like Marie Antoinette one week before her head was chopped off, or thinks we all have suddenly become morons.

Brexit yes, but which one?

The truth is though, that Britain’s governing Tories – in the new political environment as the last election shaped it – haven’t started an organized internal dialogue about the kind of Brexit they want. Only the Labour Party has a clear proposal for a soft Brexit. As for the British government negotiators, they are standing on hollow grounds, holding the most insecure job there is in the entire European political universe. This is true of course primarily for PM May and her chief negotiator David Davis.

Next week, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier will be sitting on the other side of the table in the Brexit talks. Even before May had called and lost last week’s election, Juncker had told her that she had a very tiny and uncertain majority of seven deputies in the Parliament to reckon with the the Herculian task she had to accomplish – to leave the EU and agree the future relations with the Union. Now with a minority government and growing internal opposition to a hard Brexit May’s position is quite unstable.

The magnitude of the Brexit venture, its immense repercussions and more so – after last week’s election – the weakening of that part of the Tories who want a hard Brexit, has revived the argument about rethinking it. The group of the party which voted for ‘remain’ – where May originally belonged but jumped ship – has now strengthened its position and is able to start a new confrontation with the Brexiteers. For example, ex PM and outstanding member of the Tories, John Major, strongly criticized May for preparing to form a pact with the 10 weird and extreme right wing DUP deputies of Northern Ireland.

A majority of 2

After losing the election, May’s plan is now to form a Parliamentary majority of 328 (318 Tory MPs + 10 DUP deputies) in a House of 650. Yet again the government depends on a majority of 2, which hangs on the vote of the Irish aggressively Eurosceptic, almost semi-fascist, ultra conservative evangelical Protestants. This political partnership is not the best one that the Tories, who voted ‘remain’, could have wished for. May’s message to her Tory colleagues, that it will be her to take them out from the trap that she led them in, was not accepted with enthusiasm, to say the least.

The long Brexit negotiations are to last until March 2019. It’s not at all certain then, if this May government expected to start the arduous Brexit process next week, will be in place to finalize it, and bring it to Parliament for ratification. Her Party is deeply divided over the kind of Brexit Britain should aim for. Add to that the strong objections to the hard Brexit option voiced by powerful business sectors like the City’s financial hub and the manufacturing industry, and the ability of May to steer through opposing currents is be severely restricted. Not to forget, that much more powerful Tory leaders like Margaret Thatcher and John Major have paid a very dear price for their Party’s deep division vis-à-vis the EU.

And all that is to be achieved with the questionable backing of ten DUP deputies. A growing number of central Tory figures have strongly opposed this pact; besides, the DUP’s role may destabilize the already fragile equilibrium in the Northern Irish political scenery. The Catholics and the Protestants of Northern Ireland have had a long, violent and bloody confrontation for tens of years. Already the Irish left wing nationalistic Sinn Fein Party is now questioning the present peaceful power sharing arrangement in the North. If the DUP finally strikes an agreement with the Tories, Northern Ireland may again become dangerously unstable.

In conclusion, last week’s election and next week’s opening of the Brexit negotiations with the EU, have led Britain to a politically chaotic state. The severe repercussions of leaving the Union have now started to take shape and are not at all attractive.

 

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