What's Ahead In U.K. Politics
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
One of the biggest political gambles in British history has apparently failed. British Prime Minister Theresa May has formed a new minority government after she failed to win a majority in this week's general election.
She'd called that election to increase her majority and strengthen her hand in talks to leave the European Union, but her Conservative Party won just 318 seats. That's eight short of a majority, and she can now govern only with the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. We're joined now from London by Roula Khalaf, deputy editor of the Financial Times. Roula, thanks very much for being with us.
ROULA KHALAF: Good to be with you.
SIMON: This election, of course, was called to try to cement the Conservative Party majority and the mandate for what we call Brexit. What does this do to negotiations?
KHALAF: Well, given the spectacular fiasco of the elections and the fact that Theresa May ran on a platform of a hard Brexit, I think one can assume that she no longer has a mandate for a hard Brexit. Which would essentially mean that the U.K. would be out of the single market, out of the customs union, and if it can, would negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU or just crash out, which is pretty disastrous.
So I think all our analysis this morning points to the possibility of a softer Brexit now opening up. What that means I think we have to wait and see. It could mean that the U.K. would have to remain in the customs union. I think the whole debate over what kind of Brexit we - the nation needs and the nation wants, I think, is coming back to the fore. And that was a debate that Theresa May had essentially refused to have. And although this was an election that was supposed to be about Brexit, there was no debate whatsoever about what Brexit actually means.
SIMON: Well, do you infer, Roula, in a half a minute we have left, that the results of these elections in any way indicate that a number of Britons regret the vote on Brexit that was called awhile ago?
KHALAF: I think some of them may. I wouldn't read the results of this election as being purely related to Brexit. I think the results of this election have more to do with austerity than they have to do with Brexit. But we also have to remember that people voted for Brexit for different reasons.
Not everybody voted because they actually understood what Brexit is. I think a lot of people voted because they were fed up. But, I mean, I would caution about reading the results of yesterday as a rejection of Brexit or as a repudiation of what people had voted just a year earlier.
SIMON: Roula Khalaf, who's deputy editor at the Financial Times from London. Thanks so much for being with us.
KHALAF: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.