UK Prime Minister Theresa May will form a government supported by a small Northern Irish party after her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in a snap general election.
Speaking on the doorstep of her official Downing Street residence, a stony-faced May said the government would provide certainty and lead Britain in talks with the European Union to secure a successful Brexit deal.
It comes after one of the most sensational nights in British electoral history.
A resurgent Labour Party denied May an outright win, throwing the country into political turmoil.
With 649 of the 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats and Labour 261. The pro-independence Scottish National Party are on 34.
What did the Labour Party say?
May’s Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted to form a minority government and she should step down.
But, determined to hang on, May was driven the short distance from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for permission to form a government – a formality under the British system.
What support does May have?
May says she can rely on the support of her “friends” in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after her governing Conservatives failed to emerge as clear winners.
Why did she call an election?
Because she was confident of securing a sweeping victory. May wanted to strengthen her hand in the imminent divorce talks with the EU.
A vote was not due until 2020 but May called the snap election seven weeks ago. At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from David Cameron.
What happened during the campaign?
May spent the campaign denouncing Corbyn as the weak leader of a spendthrift party that would ruin Britain’s economy and flounder in Brexit talks. She said she would provide “strong and stable leadership” to clinch a good deal for Britain.
However, her campaign unraveled after a policy u-turn on care for the elderly. Corbyn’s old-school socialist platform and more impassioned campaigning style won wider support than anyone had foreseen.
In the late stages of the campaign, the UK was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London. The focus shifted temporarily onto security issues.
This did not help May, who, in her previous role as interior miniser for six years, had overseen cuts in the number of police officers.
Analsysis suggests Labour benefitted from a strong turnout among young voters.
Has the EU said anything?
Yes. EU leaders voiced concerns that May’s shock loss of her majority would delay the Brexit talks, which are due to begin on June 19. There is concern this could increase the risk of the talks failing.
“We need a government that can act,” EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German radio. “With a weak negotiating partner, there is 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 are clear. “Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal,” said Michel Barnier.
But there was little sympathy from others. “Yet another own goal, after Cameron, now May. This will make already complex negotiations even more complicated,” tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, who represents the European Parliament in the Brexit negotations.
How did the markets react?
Sterling tumbled as much as 2.5% on the result while the FTSE share index opened higher.
The pound hit an eight-week low against the dollar and its lowest levels in seven months versus the euro.
What they are saying
“I’m afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign,” – *Conservative member of parliament Anna Soubry, who called on Theresa May to “consider her position.”
“What tonight is about is the rejection of Theresa May’s version of extreme Brexit,” – Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit policy chief.
SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it had been a disappointing night for her party, which lost seats to the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Sturgeon should take the prospect of a new independence referendum off the table.