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Theresa May’s Failed Gamble

The UK's snap election has dealt a devastating blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party, decimating its majority and resulting in a hung parliament. May's political strategy of avoiding any meaningful discussions about Brexit has clearly backfired.

BUDAPEST – Six months ago, I predicted that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government wouldn’t last far beyond May of this year. I expected the British people to have realized by then that the “soft Brexit” they had been promised was impossible. This would so undermine May’s authority, I anticipated, that she would have to resign. Lo and behold, the snap election that May called two months ago has now denied her Conservative Party a majority, resulting in a hung parliament

To be sure, by last month, I had come around to the conventional wisdom that May’s Conservatives would win. After all, May had cleverly called the election at a moment when it could not be about Brexit: one month after invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, thereby officially initiating the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. The real negotiations – which are supposed to take two years, but are likely to take much longer – haven’t even started.

Of course, May did not count on timing alone. She had been executing a political strategy that prevented the Brexit debate from being reopened. That strategy seemed to enable her to avoid public attention to the fundamental lie – that Britain could “have its cake and eat it” – peddled by the now-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Justice Minister Michael Gove, among others, during the Brexit campaign.

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