Last month, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May shocked the world by announcing a snap parliamentary election for June 8. The unnecessary appointment with voters was an attempt by the ruling Conservative majority to earn a stronger mandate to negotiate their exit from the European Union (EU). Although opinion polls give the Conservatives the edge, May’s victory is far from a shoe-in.
The outcome of the snap election hinges on one crucial detail: how voters feel about Brexit. As the results of last year’s referendum showed, the nation is deeply divided on the EU question. In fact, the referendum appears to be pushing Scotland out of the U.K. entirely. The Scottish Parliament has already authorized the government to seek a second referendum on Scottish independence, which is tentatively scheduled for late 2018 or early 2012.
Complicating matters is the fact that Mrs. May had repeatedly said her party would not call a snap election. Her change of heart caught voters by surprise, and may in fact lead to an outcome that undermines her Brexit ambitions.
Certainly, Britons don’t feel any better about Brexit than they did during last year’s referendum. According to an April YouGov poll, only 46% of the voters thought the country made the right decision, compared to 42% that said it was the wrong one. That left roughly 11% of voters who were unsure.
How voters feel about Brexit is logically going to affect how they will vote on June 8. Analysts are in general agreement that the snap election is primarily about Brexit, with other legislative goals taking a lower rung in the priority list.
Although May enjoys an outright majority in Parliament, her Conservative party isn’t united on Brexit. A snap election, in theory, should bolster her Brexit mandate if Britons vote more Conservatives into government.
The U.K.’s Labour movement was swiftly defeated in the 2015 election, with the party losing seat in London and several other jurisdictions. Some political analysts contend that support for Labour can’t get any lower than where it is now, which means the party could be poised for a rebound next month.
Although Labour is unlikely to win the election, the party can undermine May’s mandate by putting up a bigger fight than the prime minister is counting on. This leaves the distinct possibility that Mrs. May’s party can emerge weaker after next month’s vote. This could throw yet another wrench in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.