British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed Friday to remain in power and push ahead with difficult talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union despite a stunning election blow that left her Conservative Party grievously weakened and the country in a political tailspin.
“I will now form a government — a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country,” May said in front of her offices at 10 Downing Street following a 20-minute meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
As questions swirled over whether her Brexit plans can survive, May promised no delays in negotiations with the European Union, which are scheduled to begin within days.
“What the country needs more than ever is certainty,” she said.
Her expression was grim-faced and joyless, and she made no direct reference to the election results that have left her authority in tatters and tipped the scales in favor of her political opponents, including a once-hapless far-left Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
For May, the results Thursday were precisely the opposite of what she had hoped. May called the snap election seeking to strengthen her hand in the E.U. negotiations and further sideline her political critics.
Instead, the Conservatives lost their majority in Parliament — they will need the backing of Northern Irish unionists just to stay on in power — and Labour gained new credibility as a voice questioning Britain’s direction since the last ballot-box shock: 2016’s referendum vote to pull out of the European Union.
The political wreckage also included the resignation of Paul Nuttall as leader of the U.K. Independence Party, which led the charge for Brexit but lost its sole seat in Parliament in a further sign of shifting British views and political realignments.
Scottish nationalists — seeking a boost ahead of an expected second independence referendum — were also dealt a debilitating setback that raised questions about whether the referendum plans will be scrapped.
But the election’s biggest loser was undoubtedly the woman who had decided to call it: May.
The loss was widely interpreted in Britain as a personal repudiation of a politician who seemed to have charmed the country only months ago. Even as she vowed Friday to stay on as prime minister, there were predictions that she would not last long.
“May’s shelf-life has shortened dramatically,” wrote Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst with Eurasia Group in a briefing note.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Griff Witte, Karla Adam and William Booth