In a last ditch hail mary effort to avoid resignation and new snap elections, Theresa May arrived at Buckingham Palace earlier to meet with the Queen where she will attempt to cling to power by linking her Conservative party with Northern Ireland’s rightwing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) following the disastrous election that left her short of a governing majority.
As noted earlier, May has reached an understanding with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to form a coalition U.K. Government. With 649 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats and Labour 261. 326 seats are needed for majority. The DUP, which took 10 seats, was considering an arrangement which would involve it supporting a Conservative minority government on key votes in parliament but not forming a formal coalition, Sky said.
“If … the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do,” a grim-faced May said after winning her own parliamentary seat of Maidenhead, near London.
The prime minister is headed back to Downing 10 after meeting with the Queen shortly after midday to seek permission from the Queen to form a new government despite the Tories winning just 318 seats in Thursday’s general election, eight short of the 326 needed to secure a majority on their own. The support of the 10 members of parliament elected for the DUP, the more hardline of the two traditional pro-British parties in Northern Ireland, would put Mrs May just over the threshold to form a government.
According to the FT, the DUP has not agreed formally to join a coalition with the Tories, though such arrangements could be agreed later. Regardless, the deal means Mrs May will govern over a union of highly disparate interests. The Tories’ surprising expansion in Scotland means her new parliamentary party will include several MPs with strong pro-EU credentials, while the DUP is a fierce supporter of departure from the EU — even though Northern Ireland voted to remain.
In addition, she will face fierce resistance from opposition parties at Westminster. Leaders of the three largest, including Labour’s second-place finisher Jeremy Corbyn, all called for her to resign.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and head of the Scottish National party, said Mrs May had “lost all authority and credibility” while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said she “should be ashamed” and should resign “if she has an ounce of self respect”.
While the DUP is not a perfect match for the Tories ideologically — they are further left on public spending but more hardline on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion — the party is opposed Mr Corbyn, who expressed support for Irish nationalism during the 1980s.
“The two parties have worked well together for two years; there’s no reason to suppose they won’t continue to do so in the future,” said one DUP official. “But the point made time after time to Labour MPs remains: for as long as you allow yourselves to be led by an IRA cheerleader, you exclude yourselves from entering Number 10.”
Upon return to Downing 10, Theresa May said that she will “now form a government” as she seeks to govern with the support of the Northern Irish DUP party. She also adds that Brexit talks will start in 10 days as scheduled.
Earlier in the day, European Union leaders expressed fears that May’s shock loss of her majority would delay the Brexit talks, due to begin on June 19, and so raise the risk of negotiations failing.
As Reuters reported, May’s Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said May should step down and he wanted to form a minority government.
“We need a government that can act,” EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “With a weak negotiating partner, there’s a danger that the (Brexit) negotiations will turn out badly for both sides.”
The EU’s chief negotiator said the bloc’s stance on Brexit and the timetable for the talks were clear, but the divorce negotiations should only start when Britain is ready. “Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal,” Michel Barnier said.
But there was little sympathy from some other Europeans. “Yet another own goal, after Cameron now May, will make already complex negotiations even more complicated,” tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian premier who is the European Parliament’s point man for the Brexit process.