8 June 2017

Uncertain election will require cross-party approach to Brexit talks

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Responding to the General Election 2017 exit poll, predicting a hung parliament, British Future Director Sunder Katwala writes, from the ITV News media hub:

This dramatic exit poll is a reminder of one of the great virtues of democratic politics: that the voters can never be taken for granted. Whatever the final result by the morning, it does now seem impossible that this General Election will have delivered the resounding personal mandate that Prime Minister Theresa May asked the country for. No doubt this result will prompt discussion among Conservatives about the leadership of their party, but the Brexit negotiations make this a national, not a party question.

The Article 50 clock is already ticking. While there was little sign in this campaign of any appetite to revisit the question of ‘Brexit or not?’, the public do seem to feel that accountability and scrutiny of the government is more important than a thumping vote of confidence for one political leader, as we approach these vital negotiations in Europe.

These will be the most important negotiations that Britain has taken part in since the Second World War and the public will expect to see the parties work together in the national interest. Given that the two major parties, who look to have won well over 550 seats between them, have a good deal in common on the approaches to Brexit set out by David Davis and Keir Starmer, there should be a new, cross-party approach to Brexit whatever government is formed. That would be a much more effective and legitimate approach than either the Conservatives or Labour seeking to scramble together an alliance to just creep across the line and then to shut the opposition parties out.

It remains to be seen, overnight or in the days and weeks ahead, whether we will end up with a narrow majority, a coalition or a minority government. But the next administration will clearly need to now negotiate for Britain in a way that reflects the message of this election. That is going to require a new, imaginative approach in which there must be a greater role for the House of Commons, across all parties, and more direct engagement with the public themselves.

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