British Prime Minister Theresa May’s future was hanging in the balance Monday as she prepared for a showdown with angry MPs from her Conservative party following its disastrous performance in last week’s general election.
May’s Conservatives unexpectedly lost their majority in parliament in Thursday’s snap election, causing political chaos ahead of Brexit talks with the European Union, which are scheduled to start next week.
The prime minister is due to face MPs later Monday, where she could face demands to quit over her lacklustre campaign and decision to call the election in the first place.
May on Sunday unveiled her full cabinet, which will meet for the first time on Monday, making few changes as she vowed to cling on despite pressure to quit.
May’s party fell eight seats short of retaining their parliamentary majority, and is currently in talks with Northern Ireland’s ultra-conservative Democratic Union Party (DUP), which won 10 seats, to forge an informal alliance.
DUP deal slammed
With the new government set to present its legislative programme to parliament on June 19, the clock is ticking on efforts to bolster the Conservatives’ position.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said there had been “very good discussions” so far and she would travel to London to meet May on Tuesday.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the government was not looking at a formal coalition but would seek assurances that the DUP would vote with May “on the big things” such as the budget, defence issues and Brexit.
He stressed he did not share their ultra-conservative views on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, which have caused disquiet among many Conservatives.
More than 720,000 people have signed a petition condemning the proposed alliance, saying it is a “disgusting, desperate attempt to stay in power”.
The deal has also caused consternation in Dublin, with Irish premier Enda Kenny warning such an alliance could upset Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.
London’s neutrality is key to the delicate balance of power in Northern Ireland, which was once plagued by violence over Britain’s control of the province.
May responded that the DUP deal “would provide stability and certainty for the UK going forward”, her office said.
The political turmoil comes a week before Britain is due to start negotiating the terms of its exit from the European Union in talks of unprecedented complexity that are supposed to wrap up by the end of March 2019, when Britain actually leaves.
That timeline now looks even more ambitious than before, not least because May’s electoral debacle has emboldened those within her own party who object to her “hard Brexit” approach of leaving the European single market and customs union.
Brexit minister David Davis on Monday insisted that the government still aimed to take Britain out of the EU single market.
“The reason for leaving the single market is because we want to take back control of our borders, they’re not compatible,” he told BBC Radio.