FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
May’s stunning turnaround: The snap general election British PM has called for in June will be all about Brexit
Updated:Apr 20, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
It seems that a trend of effecting stunning political reversals has percolated from Washington into Westminster. By calling a snap general election, British PM Theresa May has sensationally deviated from her previous stance. The argument that an early election would be a distraction from the core focus on Brexit negotiations has been set aside on the same basis – that in order to provide certainty and stability during the negotiations, the May government needs a decisive mandate.
 
The country will go to polls on June 8, just under a year after the EU referendum and about two years after its last general elections. As Britain looks to redefine its relationship with the European Union, the broader issues at stake should matter not just to it but to representative democracies elsewhere too.
 
In large part, the decision to call an early election can be read as a tactical manoeuvre. Theresa May explained her about-turn as being driven by the attitude of opposition parties bent on ‘political game-playing’ to obstruct the government’s approach towards Brexit. The election has therefore been called with the sole purpose of achieving a decisive majority that would unburden May from the pressures of relying on a slim Tory majority.
 
May might have singled out opposition parties but she is just as concerned with internal dissent within her own party. A healthy cohort of Tory ‘remainers’ will now face the difficult task of rallying around a party manifesto that they might not be entirely aligned with. With the Labour party in disarray under Jeremy Corbyn, May has sought to press home her electoral advantage.
 
The move is not without its risks despite Labour’s woes. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party might well increase its lead which will further stoke the spectre of separatism given that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain. If Labour loses, it may end up electing a more credible leader than Corbyn. Current polls show the Tories have a commanding lead. Yet, if they do not secure a decisive majority, that will spark greater anxiety and confusion.
 
The timing of this announcement does not change the fact that the inexorable process to exit the European Union has already begun – that was triggered last month by serving the formal notice of withdrawal to the European authorities under Article 50 of the EU treaty. There is incredible time pressure, since Article 50 comes with an enshrined two year deadline.
 
In Britain, voters have yet to reconcile to the fact that retaining some form of access to the single market will necessitate compromises on other fronts. Meanwhile, the European authorities show every inclination of being dogmatic, particularly where free movement of labour is concerned. Amid all this, the prospect of an exit without a deal – a ‘hard Brexit’ – cannot be ignored.
 
May has articulated that a clean and decisive break with Europe would be necessary at all costs in order to “take back control” from Brussels. Her vision has been framed as one about galvanising Britain’s destiny as a sovereign power capable of determining its own choices. It is a worldview that prefers to see Brexit as an opportunity to break free from the shackles of a centralising and bureaucratic EU.
 
That said, critics within the Tory party cannot be blamed for agonising over the possibility of economic harm due to Brexit. They remain worried that sacrificing Britain’s unrestricted access to Europe’s single market would be an act of self-destructive hubris.
 
They are rightfully concerned that a reversion to World Trade Organization rules in the event of a hard Brexit may lead to EU imposing higher tariffs on British goods. In a general election campaign, May should expect searching questions on this front.
 
The thorniest subject remains immigration. Last year’s referendum turned in large part on a crude anti-immigration campaign that resonated with sections of the electorate that despise globalisation and prefer isolation. Yet immigration from within Europe and beyond remains critical to the economy. A grown-up debate about the trade-offs involved has yet to take place.
 
Ignoring voter anxiety is not an option clearly. In the United States, the same raw voter anger has contributed to Donald Trump’s rise. Across EU, an upsurge of support can also be seen for particular far right movements and leadership, whether it be for Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orban in Hungary or in the rise of the far right in Germany. Impending French elections this month and German elections in September are hugely important in this context.
 
Back to Britain though, as an electoral campaign gets underway, the truth is that more than ever, a post-Brexit Britain will need to embrace international relationships with gusto. An inward and isolationist Britain is unlikely to win new friends overseas. It also needs allies in Europe.
 
Reconciling domestic pressures with economic necessity will be tough for sure. But if Britain wants to succeed in a post-Brexit world, a perception of openness will matter greatly at home and overseas. It remains to be seen how these contradictions play out. In this context, the election campaign will be an important harbinger of the shape of things to come.
 

Times Of India, April 20, 2017

 

 

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has confirmed his presence for the occasion. In an exclusive interview with INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS, Indonesia’s Ambassador to India, Sidharto R.Suryodipuro, reminded Nilova Roy Chaudhury that the first Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, in 1950, w
 
read-more
The words of Ho Chi Minh  “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty” rang true for the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan when, with increasing brutality, the West Pakistani oppression spread across the land, writes Anwar A Khan from Dhaka
 
read-more
In a significant boost to New Delhi's Act East Policy, India and Japan set up the Act East Forum on Tuesday as agreed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India this year for the annual bilateral meeting that would help to focus and catalyse development in India's Northeast.
 
read-more
  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated on Friday Washington's warning that “all options are on the table” to meet North Korea's nuclear threat while offering to keep the lines of communication with Pyongyang open.
 
read-more
The 15th trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China concluded in New Delhi on Monday with many nuanced takeaways embedded in the joint statement of 46 paragraphs. Reiterating that the forum “is not directed against any other country”, the statement underlined the importance of the establishment o
 
read-more
The first thing that one sees when a flight approaches New Delhi is thick smog that envelopes the city and its lack of greenery.  In almost all other major cities of India lack of greenery is the most obvious sight that one sees when approaching it by air.
 
read-more

Pakistan has agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate after holding talks with the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) on the country's economy.

 
read-more

Two major global changes in the past year; the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the advent of Donald Trump, writes Sandeep Kaur Bhatia

 
read-more

It is also imperative for India to explore other regions for markets. Its trade deficit with Latin America has been narrowing. Also, its trade with Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala has increased, ...

 
read-more
Column-image

Over the last 25 years, India's explosive economic growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world's emerging major powers. Long plagued by endemic poverty, until the 1990s the Indian economy was also hamstrung by a burdensome regulat...

 
Column-image

Title: A Ticket to Syria; Author: Shirish Thorat; Publisher: Bloomsbury India: Pages: 254; Price: Rs 399

 
Column-image

Gorichen, a majestic peak in the Eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 22,500 feet, is the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. Beautiful to look at and providing a fantastic view from the top, it is extremely tough climb for mountaineers.

 
Column-image

It is often conjectured if the reason for long-standing conflicts and insurgencies, in the developing world, especially South Asia, is not only other powers fishing in troubled waters but also the keenness of arms industries, mostly Western, to...

 
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699