British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will stay in office although her party lost its parliamentary majority in elections. The voting was held Thursday.
May said Friday she will attempt to form a minority government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP. DUP leader Arlene Foster confirmed plans to hold talks with the Conservatives to discuss a way “to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.”
May’s Conservative Party won the most seats overall in the House of Commons, but fell well short of a majority.
May called for the election last April, saying she hoped to expand her parliamentary majority. She said it would help her in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union.
At the time, she was considered a strong favorite against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. But Corbyn’s party won many new seats Thursday.
A major campaign issue centered on Britain’s plan to leave the EU, also called Brexit. British citizens approved the plan in a vote last year.
May has said she favors a “hard” Brexit. This would mean Britain’s immediate and total withdrawal from the single market. The country would also gain full control over its borders. And, it would permit Britain to make its own trade deals and control the making of laws and enforcement in its territory.
Corbyn's Labour Party officially backs Brexit. However, many top party officials have called for a “softer” process. A “soft” Brexit would remove Britain as a member of the EU, but permit it to remain in the single market.
After the voting, Corbyn called on May to resign. He said voters had rejected her Brexit plan. "We are ready to do everything we can to put our program into operation," he said.
Political observers say the election results raise questions about the government’s future Brexit policy.
Jack Straw, a former Labour foreign minister, said the result means there will now be a lot of pressure in parliament for a soft Brexit. “The math and chemistry in the Commons will be pushing away from a hard Brexit,” he said.
Leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage said the result had put the whole future of Brexit at risk. “If the Brexit Secretary is considering putting the single market back on the table then the whole process is now seriously damaged,” he tweeted.
On Friday, European officials and lawmakers commented on the apparent political uncertainty in Britain. They said it could harm the Brexit talks, which are to begin in 10 days.
After a meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, May promised to keep pushing forward to “fulfill the promise of Brexit.”
National security was also a major issue of the election campaign following recent and deadly terror attacks in the country. Other issues included the future of the government-run National Health Service, immigration and the economy.
The Scottish National Party, or SNP, also suffered major election losses. The party has called for a second vote on whether Scotland should separate from the United Kingdom. Political observers said the latest losses mean a vote about independence is unlikely in the near future.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
exit – n. the act of going out or away from something
uncertainty – adj. in doubt, not known
fulfill – v. complete what is expected or required to do