UK election result may affect Brexit talks

British Prime Minister Theresa May waits for results in her Maidenhead constituency
British Prime Minister Theresa May waits for results in her Maidenhead constituency Reuters/Toby Melville

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has admitted he is surprised by the British election result but said it should not prevent Brexit. EU officials, however, said that a hung parliament could mean postponing talks on the UK's withdrawal from the bloc.


"The British people have spoken, they have voted, and have given the Conservative party a majority, albeit a simple majority, which is something of a surprise," Philippe said as results came through on Friday morning.

But he added that he didn't see the results as "calling into question the stance on Brexit which was clearly expressed by the British people", arguing that the election "had relatively little to do with Brexit and far more to do with domestic issues, for example linked to security" following the terror attacks in Manchester and London.

"I don't think we can read anything into this vote other than a desire expressed by the British to choose the Conservative Party but with less intensity than we thought beforehand," the prime minister, who left the mainstream right Republicans to join President Emmanuel Macron's République En Marche ! told Europe 1 radio.

Brexit timetable questioned

Philippe did say that the "tone of discussions" on Brexit might be affected, adding that the government formed after this election will be the "legitimate interlocutor of the French government".

The main reason Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May gave for calling the election was the need to strengthen her hands in the Brexit talks, leading top EU officials to question whether she can keep to the Brexit talks timetable.

"Mrs May, who was supposed to emerge strengthened, lost her gamble and is therefore in a less than clear situation because the truth is that we don't really know what the governing situation is this morning," EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who is a Socialist former French finance minister, told Europe 1.

Asked whether Brexit talks can start on 19 June as planned, he replied, "Let's not rush things but, either way, we are ready."

EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German radio that "the next few hours or days will indicate if the other negotiating party can even begin talks because without a government, there can be no negotiations".

"We need a government that is capable of action, which can negotiate Britain's exit [...] the British need to negotiate their exit but, with a weak negotiating partner, there is a danger that the talks are bad for both parties," he commented.

EU President Donald Tusk urged Britain Friday not to delay Brexit talks.

"We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a 'no deal' as result of 'no negotiations'," Tusk tweeted.

After being reelected with an increased majority in her own seat, May said Britain "needs a period of stability" as it prepares for EU withdrawal.

Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Party surged from 20 points behind, urged May to quit, saying she had "lost votes, lost support and lost confidence".

May was reported to have said she will not resign.

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