British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking outside No. 10 Downing Street in London on June 9. Her precipitated fall from a predicted landslide victory has resulted in a hung parliament. EPA PIC

THE tumultuous United Kingdom election result brings to mind the 2009 movie The Folly of Man, where a reclusive man was so immersed in his literature that he only came back to reality when he discovered there were no more eggs in the fridge.

Can we be so immersed in perceptions that we overlook reality? British Prime Minister Theresa May may have been so immersed in her perceived views of her government and people’s support for Brexit that the reality, that only 52 per cent had opted for Brexit, may have slipped her mind when she asked for a resounding landslide victory to push forward her Brexit negotiations.

She had overlooked the 48 per cent of those who did not support Brexit, which percentage over the one year may have swelled to more than 52 per cent. That is the reality, and it may have been realised by going to the ground to actually feel the flavour of the majority.

The precipitated fall from a predicted landslide victory to a minority government had resulted due to the hubris and a failure to listen to the people.

Moving on, what is the government going to be like in the UK?

After her visit to Queen Elizabeth II, May took to the podium outside No. 10 Downing Street to announce she had obtained the approval of Her Majesty, to form a minority government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Some have commented that her speech was defiant, without any sympathy for those who had lost their seats and also without any contrition for her decision that had plunged the country and Brexit negotiations into turmoil caused by her action to go to the polls.

It may have been a bit better received if she had been a little more diplomatic and subtle, rather than ploughing ahead and vowing to “get to work” on delivering Brexit.

A minority government will now be formed. The Tories needed 326 seats for a majority win, but they only managed 318. DUP had 10 seats, so with its support, she is able to form a minority government. DUP has been supporting her since she took over. What will this mean for Britain, and more importantly, for Brexit negotiations which are due to begin in 10 days?

There are fears that there was a very slim chance of a weakened PM getting plans through for her scheduled Brexit negotiations through the Houses of Parliament. Pro-Remain forces in the Tory Party indicated that they would push to stay in the single market.

Forthcoming days in the Parliament promise to be exciting, to say the very least. The chances are that the majority in Parliament will try to push for an open Brexit rather than a closed one, which defeats the very reason why the Brexit Referendum was held in the first place.

This was echoed by a senior member of parliament (MP), who warned May against any decision that would defeat what the people wanted in the very first place, i.e. to control immigration.

Remaining in the European Economic Area would mean that Britain would not be in a position to control domestic regulations and do service trade deals with the rest of the world.

May has stated she would enter the negotiations with a government that has the national interest in mind.

She confessed that this was a critical moment for the nation. Article 50 cannot be turned back. The two-year period process has been triggered. Britain will start the talks on June 19, but with a substantially weakened and divided front. Will this mean that Britain will be offering more concessions? Will this reflect the will of the people, who voted on June 23 last year?

There are a lot of tough decisions to be made but the desire and will of the people of Britain has to be well thought of.

Another term is “hung parliament”. In any election, to win outright, a party in theory must secure a majority of the total seats in Parliament, gaining a majority and earning the right to form the next government.

In the UK, to win outright, a party must secure 326 of 650 seats, which will be a majority. Any figure short of the magical 326 seats will result in a hung parliament.

In the case of a hung parliament, the leader of the party with the most seats is given the opportunity to form a government. It can be either in collaboration with other parties, which may be a more formal coalition where the coalition partners share ministerial jobs and push through a shared agenda.

The other possibility is a more informal arrangement whereby the smaller parties agree to support the main legislation, such as the budget, but do not formally take part in government. This is known as the “confidence and supply” arrangement.

May has opted for the second possibility and is in talks with DUP to reach a detailed “confidence and supply” arrangement with the 10 MPs of DUP.

This election brings to focus to a previously subdued player in UK elections — the DUP. Historically, DUP is a party composed of Protestants and who support Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.

Northern Ireland enjoys close commercial, economic and historical ties with the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the European Union (EU) and DUP favours a close relationship with EU although it supported leaving the bloc.

A similar situation surfaced in 1974 when the then Tory prime minister Ted Heath called for an election asking for a mandate to take on militant trade unions.

May went to the polls asking for voters to give her a strong mandate in Brexit talks. But, what she may have overlooked is that the “remainers” were strong as well — 52 per cent voted to leave while 48 per cent to remain. So, to ask for a landslide victory in the polls was akin to treading on thin ice.

In 1974, Labour won the seats and it resulted in the first hung parliament since World War 2.

Heath tried to form a minority government with DUP but failed.

Unlike May, who has succeeded in her quest for a minority government but has yet to work out a unity plan, Harold Wilson formed a minority Labour government and in a second election in October, Labour won.

Britain may have to go to the polls again later this year. And, who can foresee the result?

Grace Xavier is a research fellow at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Law. She can be reached via gracem@um.edu.my

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