The Brief: May takes back control with Brexit election

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Theresa May can take full control of the UK’s Brexit negotiations and stamp out the feeble opposition facing her in Westminster after today announcing a snap election.

She is expected to triumph with an increased majority in the 8 June vote. Her Conservatives are polling at 44% to Labour’s 23%.

Sky News today predicted that May could scoop a whopping 140-seat majority, which is more than Margaret Thatcher ever enjoyed.

Victory will allow May to head into EU-UK Brexit negotiations with a strengthened hand at home. Downing Street insists that the timetable for the talks won’t be hit by the surprise vote, which will be held between elections in France and Germany.

She will be able to claim, for the first time, a personal mandate from the British people to lead the country and deal hammer blows to Labour, UKIP and the Scottish National Party.

In Scotland, the election will be fought on whether there should be a second independence referendum. Polls show that the country is divided 50-50 on independence but two thirds of voters are against another referendum.

The pressure will be on the Scottish National Party to repeat its landmark success in the 2015 elections. Anything less will lead to questions over their mandate or their claims about Scottish Europhilia.

UKIP has struggled to remain relevant since the referendum. May will expect to welcome back many voters and consign Nigel Farage’s party to the political wilderness.

A landslide will emasculate the extreme Brexiteers among the Tories. Their influence, exaggerated by the Tories’ slim majority, will wane. Like UKIP, Tory Eurosceptics will no longer be able to hold May hostage.

Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour to a crushing defeat. Even Labour voters believe May is a better prime minister than Corbyn would be and the Tories are more trusted on every major issue except the National Health Service.

The Liberal Democrats are not credible opposition either. They have just nine MPs and a deeply tarnished recent history from their time in coalition with David Cameron.

The large majority of British people would not trust Jeremy Corbyn, let alone the little-known Tim Farron, to be prime minister.

Polls suggest that the Lib Dems, the only anti-Brexit party, may gain just two extra seats in the general election.  Even they are not calling for Brexit to be reversed but only for a second referendum on the final divorce deal.

May repeatedly said she would not call a snap election but her U-turn was the smart move.

Calling a vote now means the next general election will not be held until 2022. May will have more time, about three years, for any transitional Brexit deal and for EU-UK free trade negotiations.

Only then will she have to face the consequences of what will now indisputably be her Brexit at the ballot box.

THE ROUNDUP

Turkey on Sunday voted to grant its president a host of new powers. The EU’s Turkish diaspora also backed the reforms.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already suggested more referendums could be held on the country’s EU membership bid, which quietly entered its 30th year last week, as well as one on reintroducing the death penalty. The European Commission urged Ankara to investigate alleged voting irregularities.

European Parliament leaders Antonio Tajani, Guy Verhofstadt, Gianni Pittella and Manfred Weber all called Turkey’s membership credentials into question. The refugee deal with Ankara is still on shaky ground.

The Commission signed up to a nuclear safety cooperation programme with Iran. The EU executive wants to help the Middle Eastern country install a nuclear safety framework and join international conventions.

25 Nobel Economic Prize winners, including Joseph Stiglitz and Jean Tirole, denounced Marine Le Pen’s anti-European platform. The French presidential election’s frontrunners all staged rallies in Paris yesterday.

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has been called as a witness in a major political corruption case. The scandal first emerged in 2009 and has driven disenchanted voters into the arms of new parties like Podemos and Ciudadanos.

The British government claims that the future of two EU agencies based in London will be decided in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. Brussels officials insist only member states can host them.

European Council President Donald Tusk sent Brexiteers’ heads spinning with this tweet from his personal account.

An ALDE MEP has told the Commission to release information about a 2011 infringement procedure it launched against the UK about free movement and health insurance. Brussels chose not to pursue the matter and Sophie in t’Veld wants the general public to know why. The Commission has so far refused.

Pesticides residues can be found on most of our food and the effect of air pollution on the human body is similar to the toll caused by a partner’s death, according to new studies.

Tourists threw more than €1.4 million into Rome’s Trevi fountain last year. The money will be used to subsidise a supermarket for the Eternal City’s poorest inhabitants. We’ve all been eating Pringles wrong too.

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief.

LOOK OUT FOR…

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini wraps up her China trip tomorrow, before moving onto India and Russia.

Views are the author’s.

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