June 28, 2017

Senior UK Cabinet ministers offer support to prime minister

13 June 2017, 10:34 | Grady King

Conservative MP David Davis arrives at Downing Street | Jack Taylor Getty Images

Conservative MP David Davis arrives at Downing Street | Jack Taylor  Getty Images

May looked set to face criticism and anger from Conservative MPs at a private meeting in parliament over her handling of an election that lost the party its parliamentary majority. The Conservatives are now trying to secure the support of Northern Ireland's 10 Democratic Unionist Party lawmakers to assure passage of May's program.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's stunning electoral setback with a hung parliament on Thursday left her Brexit strategy in shambles less than two weeks before the start of talks.

He added: "Time is passing". So far, the Brexit-related chaos has helped pro-EU politicians beat nationalist populists in major Western European nations.

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, said he wanted discussions to proceed without delay, while Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit, said "negotiations should start when United Kingdom is ready". "Lots of people underestimated [the] consequences".

Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum a year ago in what became popularly known as Brexit.

I know I know, you could not make it up. "Barnier has been very sure-footed", says one Brussels-based diplomat. Her shift on Brexit could be forgiven as recognition of the requirement of a pragmatic position in a scenario she could not change, but there is no benefit of the doubt to be given over her about-turns on holding an election, and the so-called dementia tax.

Before the election, May proposed a clean break from the European Union, involving withdrawal from Europe's single market, limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU. "No one is laughing." the European Union source told Sky News.

On Twitter, Siegfried Muresan, spokesman for the European Parliament's largest grouping, the European People's Party, said, "EU did not want #Brexit, but has been prepared to negotiate it since a year ago".

But each version of a "softer" Brexit involves hard trade-offs for any British government committed to leaving the EU.

Some Britons argue for staying in the EU'S single market but EU leaders insist that would require keeping Britain open to free immigration from the EU, accepting EU laws and paying into the bloc's budget. It said Britain was "effectively leaderless" and the "country all but ungovernable".

An executive at one global bank warned that because the negotiating clock is now ticking there is now a higher likelihood that the government will fail to get a deal altogether by the March 2019 deadline. To this end I have sought a meeting with Theresa May as a matter of urgency. George Freeman, the MP who chairs the Conservative Policy Forum, suggested that ministers need to take a "less ideological" approach to Brexit following last week's election.

Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds entered Downing Street at around 12:40 p.m. (1140 GMT, 7:40 a.m. EDT). If time runs short, might the 27 governments agree to extend the two-year negotiating window, as Article 50 allows?

"They would see it as the government paying cash for votes in parliament, and in doing so I think that could well cost votes in the country for the Conservative party, by the bucketload, at a subsequent election", he said.

Moody's Investors Service said the inconclusive election outcome would complicate and "probably delay" negotiations with the EU. David Davis, the Brexit minister and Mr Barnier's likely interlocutor, has repeated the threat since the election. If it goes on, it will probably strengthen the chances of Italy's ruling centrists beating the anti-EU Five Star Movement in the next general election as they did in Sunday's local polls. The responsibility of avoiding such a catastrophe rests, in part, on his shoulders.

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