Political turmoil and a silver lining

Political turmoil and a silver lining

Theresa May called the June 8 election in the hope of securing a stronger hand as the UK went into Brexit talks. Instead, the Conservatives have come out weakened and there is a question mark over the Prime Minister’s future.

Short of a parliamentary majority, Mrs May is clinging to an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which strongly supported leaving the EU but wants to remain in the Customs union and avoid a hard border.

The DUP’s 10 MPs would be enough to give her a working majority in the new parliament – particularly as Sinn Fein have confirmed that their seven MPs will not be taking their seats.

A formal coalition – with DUP ministers sitting alongside Conservatives in cabinet – does not appear to be on the cards.

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One possibility, however, could be a “confidence and supply” arrangement – with the DUP agreeing to back the Government on the budget and any vote of confidence, while deciding other measures on a vote-by-vote basis.

Yesterday Mrs May came under fierce criticism from other political parties including Labour and the Liberal Democrats. There were calls for her to step down.

The election result heralds weeks of uncertainty and could impact on Brexit talks that are due to start in just over a week.

The many voices in the UK parliament who championed a soft version of Brexit now carry more weight. The outcome of the vote means they cannot be ignored.

It may be that there will be a greater impetus to find consensus and compromise between the two extremes in the Brexit debate.

There is some urgency in all of this because, as EU leaders reminded the UK yesterday, the clock is ticking and the two-year deadline looms. Without clarity, the risk is that the UK will crash out of the EU without any sort of of deal, the hardest Brexit of all.

Amid the upheaval, there is a silver lining for Gibraltar.

Months of lobbying and campaigning – not just by the Gibraltar Government and its London office, which have conducted sterling work, but by other politicians too and the community as a whole – ensured our concerns and aspirations were firmly on the radar in the run-up to polling day.

All the main political parties included commitments to Gibraltar in their manifestoes and most of the MPs who staunchly back our cause were re-elected.

Without a majority government, the UK parliament will have a greater voice in the Brexit process. And across the political spectrum, Gibraltar has friends who will fight our corner.

In the weeks ahead, Gibraltar must tread a fine line.

We must continue to ensure our concerns about Brexit are noted and that UK ministers and MPs take account of our needs for the future. Our voice must not be drowned out.

But the political turmoil unleashed in the UK is filled with pitfalls and we must also be wary.

The last thing we need is to get tangled in the horse trading and politicking that will inevitably follow yesterday’s dramatic result.

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Brian Reyes
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