It was a surprise for everyone to learn that the U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May decided to call for snap elections.
Some analysts believe that the purpose of her decision to call for early elections is to solidify her Party’s position why the Labour Party experiences not the best period of its political activity. It is also believed that she wanted to get a mandate to secure a better position for negotiations.
Although the above is reasonable, it may not be the core reason.
First of all, why would the special mandate be needed when she has already got it by the virtue of being the U.K. PM. Besides, to call for snap elections for the sake of mandate could represent a huge unjustifiable risk, which is likely to produce an unfavourable outcome.
The fact that since 2016 Brexit vote, the public perception in the U.K. has changed significantly, supports this view.
The difference between leave and remain was 3.8% or 1.3 million in favor of Leave. However, in a close analysis, virtually all the polls show that the UK electorate wants to remain in the EU, and has wanted to remain since referendum day.
Former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, now Chancellor, wanted Britain to remain in the EU, and he has suggested it could take up to six years for the UK to complete exit negotiations. The terms of Britain’s exit will have to be agreed by 27 national parliaments, a process which could take some years, he has argued.
This long process is not in favor of the U.K. interests as it might cause further deterioration of the economy and decline in living standards. Needless to say that as a result, the Conservative Party ‘s popularity will drop significantly.
Writing in The Observer, Mr Verhofstadt said: “The theory espoused by some, that Theresa May is calling a General Election on Brexit in order to secure a better deal with the EU, is nonsensical.”
“Will the election of more Tory MPs give Theresa May a greater chance of securing a better Brexit deal? For those sitting around the table in Brussels, this is an irrelevance.”
To understand May’s motive, we need to look at the scope of negotiations.
Both the E.U. and the U.K. agree on one thing: this is ‘unprecedented’ territory and neither side knows how the talks will pan out. Britain will now face the most intense, arduous and complex negotiations since the end of the Second World War.
The following are the key issues for the upcoming negotiations.
1. The divorce bill
The EU expects the U.K. to honor existing joint spending commitments even as it walks out the exit door in 2019. EU members pay for infrastructure projects, social programs, scientific research and wages and pensions for EU bureaucrats. The current budget runs until 2020.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said recently that Britain will need to pay roughly £50 billion ($63 billion) as it leaves.
The battle over money is expected to be one of the thorniest issues that negotiators will address, and may hold up discussion on other items.
2. The rights of migrants
EU rules allow Brits to live and work in any of the 28 member countries. EU citizens can do the same in Britain. That’s all set to end once the U.K. leaves. More than 4 million people will be affected directly. About 3 million people from other EU states live in the U.K., and 1.2 million Brits live in other EU countries.
Some Brits flooded the Republic of Ireland with tens of thousands of passport applications in the months after the June referendum in an effort to keep an EU passport. Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary also reported a surge in interest in the days immediately after the vote.
3. Trade and tariffs
EU membership allows Britain to sell goods and services across the bloc under a free trade agreement. The EU is the U.K.’s biggest trading partner, providing a market for 44% of all British exports and supplying 53% of its imports. However, as soon as Brexit negotiations are finalized, this arrangement might cease to exist.
4. Three sacred cows
The financial and related services sector accounts for 12% of U.K. GDP. London is the world’s No.1 location for trading in foreign currencies.
London also handles about 75% of all trade in euro-denominated interest rate derivatives. Eurozone officials are likely to push for these transactions to be conducted within the EU.
A deal that preserves some banking access to EU markets would be a major win. A failure could cost London thousands of well-paid jobs and billions in business.
If Britain crashes out of the EU and is forced to trade under WTO rules, automakers will face new tariffs on cars shipped to Europe and higher costs on imported parts. Cars made in Britain get nearly 60% of their parts from outside the U.K. — mostly from the EU — and 56% of those cars are sold back into the EU.
“No deal would be the very worst case for the U.K. auto industry and would put at risk the competitiveness of the industry,” said Ford’s () European CEO Jim Farley on Wednesday.
Carmakers have already sought government assurances that they will be protected if Britain leaves the EU internal market. Nissan () is said to have received some — although the details have never been revealed.
Aviation presents its own thorny challenges. Flights to and from the U.K. are covered by an Open Skies agreement with the EU. If no replacement deal is reached on time, flights could be grounded.
Airlines need an agreement by the middle of next year so they can plan their flight schedules for 2019.
British airlines that want to continue to operate flights within the EU, for example from Germany to Italy, face another headache. They could be forced to establish EU subsidiaries and rework their ownership structures.
5. Border controls
The U.K. is an island nation but it still shares a land border with the EU.
The Republic of Ireland is a member of the EU (and will remain so) while neighboring Northern Ireland is part of the U.K. Residents currently enjoy free movement across the border.
Britain leaving Europe’s single market, and its customs union would present major new challenges in a region that were plagued by violence for decades. A new “hard border” could be the end result.
In addition, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the wake of the Leave result that it was “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland faced being taken out of the EU when it voted to Remain. She said Mrs. May’s decision to rule out the UK staying in the single market meant Scotland should have a choice between a “hard Brexit” and becoming an independent country, possibly in the EU.
Ms. Sturgeon has officially asked for permission for a second referendum to be held, saying that she wanted the vote to be held between the autumn of 2018 and spring 2019. Theresa May has said, “this is not the time” for a second referendum.
The land border between Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland is likely to be a key part of the Brexit talks. Theresa May said a priority for her would be negotiating a deal with the EU which allowed a common travel area between the UK and the Republic.
Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in last year’s referendum. The result in Northern Ireland was 56% for Remain and 44% for Leave.
And finally, if the EU and the UK cannot reach the agreement on the main points, including trade, the rules of WTO will apply. As we know, the WTO rules prohibit discrimination. This could significantly diminish the UK’s influence on the outcome of the negotiations.
If we consider economic decline, the colossal scale of issues for the negotiation process, uneven negotiation positions and the real threat to the UK territorial integrity which was triggered by the Brexit vote, it may suggest that the UK has a very slim chance to get a favourable outcome.
Besides, these events most likely will happen simultaneously. Taking into account the importance of each of these elements it is easy to see that Theresa May and her cabinet will be destructed beyond beliefs making the chance of success even slimmer.
If we add Donald Trump and his unhealthy unpredictability and spontaneous decision-making, it is clear that long-standing alliance between the United States and the UK might be thing of the past.
If we put all of these components together, we may understand that the Great Britain is all by itself. It is very likely that a chance for Britain to achieve any positive result might no longer be an option.
I think it is possible that Theresa May announced snap elections because she might have realized that irrespective how hard she tries, there is a good chance for her to come out as a loser. It would mean that her name will always be associated as a leader who let down the country by failing to protect its integrity and citizens. It would be the end of her political career.
Due to significant potential for continuous economic deterioration, the fact that it was not her fault may not be taken into consideration.
The negative consequences would also damage the reputation of the Conservative Party for a very long time.
Therefore, it is possible that recent sudden announcement whereby Theresa May called for an early election is an attempt to transfer responsibilities to someone else. Besides the surprising nature of her announcement, the fact that it contradicts her previously made statements rejecting the idea of early elections, indirectly supports my theory.