Teresa May has called for a snap election in Britain on June 8.
Having already triggered Article 50 to begin the two-year period negotiating Brexit, May could easily see England through this process. Her current mandate as Prime Minister lasts until 2020.
When she announced the election on April 18, her stated objective was that she wanted a stronger mandate as she negotiates the UK’s exit from the EU. She stated: “The only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election.” She then laid down a challenge for those opposing Brexit, saying “this is your moment to show you mean it and that you aren’t just playing politics for a game.”
While May is very forceful, one needs to look carefully at these words, and to respect the fact that May is an incredibly bright and strategic woman.
When you do that, it is clear that May now realizes how dire the consequences of Article 50 can be for the British economy, including real isolation should negotiations not go as well as hoped and should Scotland secede from the UK. She is probably also receiving strong counsel from members of her own party opposed to Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as well as outside sources (that may include Prince William - the smartest member of the royal family) encouraging her to roll back on the risks to England’s economy and UK’s very existence.
And, the truth is that the only way out of this – or at least the easiest way out - is to lose control of government or at least to be able to point to gains by the Liberal Democrats, the opposition, on June 8 as grounds for slowing down the process.
Those of us in the US are familiar with this strategy of trying to give power to internal opposition in order to slow down an international position. Barack Obama pursued it multiple times, including in 2013, when he allowed Congress to vote on whether to attack Assad after Syria violated the Geneva Convention by using chemical weapons on its civilians.