For the second time in just under two years, Britain has left most of the rest of Europe bemused. The Brexit referendum has been followed by a snap election aimed at giving a strong Brexit negotiating hand with Brussels to the ruling Conservatives. That clearly backfired and like the rest, Czechs are now trying to work out what happens next.
British prime minister Theresa May promised stability and sought a firm Brexit negotiating hand with the rest of the EU when she called early elections for June 8. But the outcome has been exactly the opposite. May’s massive poll lead evaporated during the campaign, Brexit was sidelined by other issues, and her own on the road performance was wooden and uncertain while that of the often derided Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, boosted its support.
The result is that the Conservatives lost their overall parliamentary majority with the best chance of staying in power a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. On many issues they are even more nationalist and pro-monarchy than the Conservatives but are not seeking a ‘hard’ border with the Irish Republic after Brexit. Prime Minister May looks like damaged goods with her own future uncertain.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on his Twitter account that it was clear the Conservatives bet on a hard Brexit mandate had failed to pay off. Sobotka added that he was pleased that the clear winner of the election vote was Labour’s Corbyn and expected them to have a clearer influence on domestic and foreign policy. And while the Czech Social Democrat leader said he did not expect the creation of a new British government to take long, the clock was ticking down on the two years earmarked for the exit negotiations. Bohuslav Sobotka:
ʺDuring the elections in Britain, it was parties that weren’t linked with Brexit that won votes. The Conservative Party has been weakened. Now we must wait to see who forms a government and what sort of mandate they will have for the Brexit negotiations. I hope it does not take too long because we have already lost several months since Britain officially announced Brexit which was in March."
The Brexit negotiations are actually supposed to start on June 19. Labour is officially in favour of a ʺsoft Brexit," meaning trying to stay in the EU’s single market.
Many Czech MEPS echoed the danger of chaos and confusing about the British Brexit stand in some of their comments. Czech Christian Democrat Pavel Svoboda said a ʺHard Brexit" is now unthinkable. Perhaps tongue in cheek, ANO’s Petr Ježek, suggested prime minister May’s had just delivered on a clever strategy – after all she was originally against Brexit.
And that is a line partly taken up by Czech journalist in Britain Jan Jůn, speaking to Czech Radio:
"It’s quite possible that she [May] will have a reason to refuse a hard Brexit because of how the elections have turned out.ʺ