On April 19, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, sparked an unexpected political firestorm; she asked members of Parliament to trigger a snap-general election for June 8, 2017. This news came as a shock to members of Parliament, politicos, media, and the public alike. When asked before whether she planned on announcing a general election to diffuse political gridlock over Brexit negotiations, Prime Minister May told the public, on multiple occasions, she would not consider the option. However, amidst political “game playing,” which she warned would destroy the UK’s negotiating position, she decided she needed unequivocal political support to launch headstrong into Article 50 negotiations with the European Union.
Although some may argue that the Prime Minister’s call for a general election will sew more chaos in a politically upside-down world, May’s decision exuded political confidence and national strength, which will serve to provide stability to the geopolitical world.
Prime Minister May certainly practiced calculation and restraint in her call for a snap election. Her decision came at a time when public confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is at an all-time low. YouGov, an international market research firm, recently conducted a poll asking UK voters which party they would vote for “if there was a general election tomorrow.” The results signified a strong Conservative victory, with 44% of respondents claiming they would vote Conservative, while only 23% said they would vote for Labour. UKIP, the party of Euroskeptics, polls at 10% in this poll, which further secures May’s negotiating position, assuming victory. With the numbers as strong as they are for the Prime Minister, it would have been difficult, and perhaps even reckless, for May to pass up the opportunity to solidify her negotiating position with the European Union and bolster her numbers in Westminster.
May’s political courage, or perhaps her opportunism, signifies an unfettered negotiating confidence. On June 8, voters will be voting for or against the negotiating strategy laid out by the government. Her apparent certainty that voters will approve her plan reveals an unbridled confidence that will prove beneficial when she confronts leaders at the negotiating table in Europe. This sign of confidence, and the public’s welcoming of it, was reflected by the market when the value of the pound sterling spiked during and after her announcement. Additionally, this calculated move will stymie EU leaders from leveraging any signs of public discontent within the United Kingdom against May’s negotiating position — for a win on election day will act as national affirmation for her strategy.
The greatest significance, however, of May’s call for a general election should be the national unity that the vote will create on June 9. The last year has proven factitious throughout the United Kingdom, with Brexiters and Remainers going head-to-head. After the referendum, pundits claimed the UK was rife with regret, as some voters seemed unsure whether they had made the right choice on referendum day. But, whether a victory for Theresa May’s Conservative Party comes to fruition, the nation will finally be united; urged to stand behind a common cause for a common purpose, whatever the result might be. The people will, yet again, have had the opportunity to air their grievances about their nation’s future.
While there will always be discontent about the decision to leave the European Union, the June 8 election will create a national front in the United Kingdom that is able to take negotiations head on. The nation will be united in a common cause to deliver the best Brexit possible. This will provide a stronger future for both the United Kingdom and Europe, thereby adding a sense of stability to the world.