Britain’s election is providing another night of political shock and surprise.
Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have lost her gamble in calling a “snap” election to strengthen her grip on power.
While her Conservatives will likely remain the largest party — and may even have a majority to govern — they are losing seats.
That puts the future of Brexit negotiations and even May’s own position up in the air.
Exit polls, compiled for the UK’s main television broadcasters, suggested as the polls closed that the Conservatives would secure only 314 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons — a loss of 17 seats.
Later, the BBC revised its predictions to give 322 seats to the Conservatives, which may be just enough to have a “working majority,” as a small number of MPs do not vote.
But that is far from the victory sought — and there are already questions about whether the British electorate were rejecting May’s “hard Brexit” approach to leave the European Union whatever deals were made over the divorce.
Where the center-right Conservatives had hoped to take seats from the main opposition Labour Party, the reverse happened. There was no landslide one way or the other, but at least one government minister has lost her seat.
Brexit talks could derail
May had promised a “hard Brexit” if Britain did not like the terms of the divorce negotiated with the EU. She vowed to take the country out of the EU’s single market and customs union, essentially a free-trade zone, radically changing Britain’s relationship with one of its biggest trading partners.
The value of the British pound tumbled 1.6%, to $1.27, immediately after the exit poll results came out.
May experienced a gradual slide during the campaign period, in which a wide gap between the Conservatives and Labour narrowed.
Predictions of Conservative success became more modest as the party’s campaign faltered following a series of missteps.
May was criticized for making a number of U-turns on social welfare and she came under fire for a controversial proposal on who should pay for the cost of care for the elderly, a policy that became known as the “dementia tax.”
Her opponents also took issue with her refusal to take part in a televised debate with other party leaders.
The Prime Minister called what she thought would be a Brexit-focused election, but the issue was quickly overshadowed by security as two deadly terror attacks, in Manchester and London, struck during the campaign period.
The attacks only put May under more scrutiny for national security decisions she made during her tenure as Home Secretary, a role she held for six years in the government of her predecessor, David Cameron.
The attacks triggered a heated debate on whether the police are well-enough resourced to deal with terror threats. Police numbers across the UK were cut by 20,000 under May’s watch as Home Secretary.
The exit polls also mark an unexpected rise for Corbyn, who has hung on as Labour leader through several attempts from senior members of his party to oust him.
“If this result plays out, Corbyn has defied all expectations and denied Theresa May a majority. It would be a major endorsement for his brand of left-wing populist politics as well as for him personally,” journalist Merrick says.
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