In an important announcement today (18 April 2017), Teresa May (Prime Minister – UK Government) has sought a parliamentary vote on a General Election within the United Kingdom.
If approved, the General Election to be held on 8 June 2017 will be an opportunity for the current Government to consolidate their mandate for a “Hard Brexit” or, the most likely alternative of a coalition of Political Parties to move forward on a “Soft Brexit” option.
This consolidation will take three forms:
Teresa May will be seeking a personal mandate from the UK electorate.
She was not directly elected and took over the post of Prime Minister on 13 July 2016 after the resignation of the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron through a Conservative Party voting process.
Calling the General Election will have the effect of electing a Prime Minister with a clear mandate to carry forward with their Brexit strategy, which if it is Teresa May, it will consolidate her position as the Prime Minister and her direction of a “Hard Brexit”.
The current Government is seeking the electorate’s mandate to implement Brexit
A General Election can clear the “political air” by seeking the clearest mandate to implement Brexit. Currently, Teresa May and the Conservative Government have high ratings and a solid majority in the UK Government & they will be looking to retain or improve on their election performance to secure their mandate.
Before the General Election can take place, two-thirds of seats of Members of Parliament (MPs) will need to approve the measure at the vote to be held on Wednesday, 19 April 2017. It should be noted that this is not two-thirds of the voting MPs but of all MPs. So at least 434 of the 650 seats must vote for the General Election.
During the proposed General Election, there will be the opportunity for other political parties, such as the Liberal Democrat Party and Scottish National Party, to seek to differentiate themselves by seeking “Soft Brexit” options.
Reset the timing of the General Election to fit with the Brexit timetable
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, General Elections should take place on a five-year cycle with the next General Election timed to take place in 2020.
Given the triggering of the Article 50 Notification process earlier on the 29 March 2017, this would require Brexit to be completed by 29 March 2019 with only one year before the next General Election, which would leave little time to resolve any post-Brexit issues or even an extension to the two-year Article 50 process, if sought.
Resetting the General Election to 8 June 2017 means that the next UK Government would have a full four-years to implement Brexit including any post-Brexit or extension issues.
Within this mix of possibilities for the proposed General Election, there are, clearly, the political dimensions but also there will be a greater debate on the form of the Brexit that the country wants as the earlier referendum only sought a simple answer of “Remain” or Leave” to our membership of the European Union.
It will be interesting to see how the environment features in the proposed General Election campaign and in the options for Brexit offered by all political parties.
As for now, the vote for the General Election is, only, one day away & its result will be keenly awaited.