British Prime Minister Theresa May faced pressure to resign on Friday after the shock loss of her parliamentary majority, raising the risk of the Brexit talks failing.
After being re-elected with an increased majority in the London commuter seat of Maidenhead, May said Britain “needs a period of stability” as it prepares for the complicated process of withdrawing from the European Union.
She said that while the full results had yet to emerge, her party seemed to have won the most seats and “it would be incumbent on us to ensure we have that period of stability”.
But Leftist opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour party surged from 20 points behind, urged May to quit, saying she had “lost votes, lost support and lost confidence”.
Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry, who just held onto her seat, said May was “in a very difficult place” following a “dreadful campaign”.
With a handful of seats still to be declared, the Conservatives were predicted to win 319 seats, down from 331 in 2015 — yet another upset in a turbulent year since the EU referendum in June 2016.
They were mathematically unable to reach the 326 mark that would give them a majority, meaning they will have to form an informal or formal alliance to forward their agenda.
Labour are expected to increase their share from 229 to 260 seats, resulting in a hung parliament.
May, a 60-year-old vicar’s daughter, is now facing questions over her judgment in calling the election three years early and risking her party’s slim but stable majority of 17.
Sterling fell nearly two percent against the dollar on the back of the exit poll, as investors questioned who was now going to control the Brexit process.
European Union leaders also fear May’s loss of her majority will delay Brexit talks due to start this month and raise the risk of negotiations failing.
Guenther Oettinger, the German member of the European Commission, said it was unclear negotiations could be launched on Monday, June 19, as planned. The talks, which the EU wants to ensure a legally smooth British departure in March 2019, would be more uncertain without a strong negotiating partner, he added.
Another EU official in Brussels said it was too early to speculate on how the bloc would react to a change in Britain’s demands for its withdrawal.
“Let’s see if the next government changes its position on Brexit,” the official said as results confirmed May could no longer command a majority in parliament.
Former Finnish premier Alexander Stubb was a rare senior commentator. He tweeted: “Looks like we might need a time-out in the Brexit negotiations. Time for everyone to regroup.”
Britain has been hit with three terror attacks since March, and campaigning was twice suspended.
A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in Manchester on May 22, killing 22 people.
Last Saturday, three assailants wearing fake suicide vests mowed down pedestrians and launched a stabbing rampage around London Bridge, killing eight people before being shot dead by police.
The attacks led to scrutiny over May’s time as interior minister from 2010 to 2016, particularly since it emerged that some of the attackers had been known to police and security services.
Labour seized on steep cuts in police numbers implemented as part of a Conservative austerity program, although May insisted she had protected funding for counter-terrorism.