The Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May has won only 318 seats, several seats short of the majority needed to form a government. May has pledged to remain in office, and said she will will form a minority government to provide “certainty.”
Here’s where the country is likely to go from here:
Theresa May travels to Buckingham Palace to tell Queen Elizabeth, the U.K. head of state, that she intends to form minority government. A deal was struck between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland on Friday morning, just a few hours after a hung parliament was confirmed. The DUP, which holds ten seats, has broadly similar views to the Conservatives on domestic policy — though, crucially, is opposed to the so-called “hard” Brexit sought by May.
The Labour Party, which exceeded expectations to win 266 seats, will continue to pile on pressure on Theresa May to resign – and she will continue to resist, in the name of “stability.” Analysts say the party, which has been plagued by tensions between Corybn and his parliamentary colleagues, will come out of the election more united than before.
“It is very early to tell but it indicates that Jeremy Corbyn strategy— which is to mobilize his base, to inspire young people, to inspire people who haven’t voted before— seems to have done the trick,” Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, tells TIME. “Despite all the cynicism from experts like me and pundits, he does seem to have gotten young people out to vote.”
Once May has ironed out details with the DUP, she will unveil a new cabinet in the coming days. Corbyn, too, will name a new shadow cabinet — perhaps with more senior Labour Party figures who refused to serve under him before.
The start of Brexit talks due on June 19 risk being pushed back, as the Conservatives debate whether to rethink their strategy. Donald Tusk tweeted about the uncertainty surrounding the talks — reminding the U.K. of the hard two-year deadline under the terms of Article 50:
Thursday’s vote snatched away the mandate May sought for her hard Brexit vision— of leaving the single market and the customs union. Not only has the vote weakened her negotiating position with the E.U., Tony Travers, an elections expert at LSE tells TIME, she will find herself with have a weak hand in Parliament. “At any point a tiny number of either Conservative or DUP MPs could say: “we won’t put up with this”” he says.
May may yet face a leadership challenge. But analysts say a move like that in the short term would threaten the stability of Conservative Party and hinder its efforts in forming a government. “I don’t think Theresa May is a give up and go person,” Patrick Dunleavy, professor of political science and public policy at LSE, says.
“She’s safe for the foreseeable future, people want her to get Brexit started,” a member of the government told TIME. “Whether she can last until the next general election is questionable.”
It’s also an open question how long the current arrangement with the DUP might last. Minority governments work in countries that are used to it, like in Scandinavia, but Bale warns that Britain will struggle under one. “I suspect that any government that tried it would not be able to do it for a very long time” he told TIME, before the results emerged.
A referendum on the final Brexit deal might also be on the horizon in at least two years time. “I would have ruled out a second referendum a few days ago, but I am now not sure that we can rule that out now” Bale tells TIME. He believes the country will fall into “some kind” of a recession in the next few years. Without a mandate, the Conservatives will have to listen to the public mood. “People are going to wonder whether if this is really is the right move, and if opinion polls shift, and if there is a demand for a second referendum on the deal that any government does, we may well have one” he says.
With reporting by Mark Leftly