2017 UK General Election
This morning’s 2017 General Election results shows a damaged Theresa May with the usual predictable calls for her to resign but she’s no need to do this. Look at the final results and do the maths.
The Conservatives (318 seats) may not have an overall majority (they needed 326+ to be unassailable) but even if Labour (262 seats), Scottish National Party (35 seats) and the Liberal Democrats (12 seats) all combine to vote against the Conservatives, they are short of a majority: 262 + 35 + 12 = 309, 10 short of a defeat vote. The balance of power lies with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, leader Arlene Foster. They have the 10 seats. If the DUP members add their votes to the Conservatives, the total rises to 328, two votes above the magic number of 326. If the DUP members add their votes to an unholy alliance of Labour, SNP and LibDems, the total rises to 319, one vote, just one, above the Conservatives’ 318.
So, here are the questions:
– How likely is it that Labour, the SNP and the LibDems would all conspire to vote against a Conservative government bill? Answer: very unlikely but not improbable.
– How likely is it that the DUP would then throw its votes into such an alliance? Hmm…
Suddenly, the DUP is thrust into the limelight and Arlene Foster’s policy statements will now come under intense scrutiny as politicians, pundits and soothsayers alike ponder on how she and her party will respond to certain key issues. For me, the issue that may cause a major rift between Foster and May is the soft/hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At the moment, the border between these two countries is soft—no border checkpoints or other controls—and the DUP members want to keep it that way post-Brexit. Northern Ireland benefits enormously from the free flow of goods, services and capital coming from the Republic of Ireland and creating a hard border across a 499 km (310 miles) stretch of land with more than 200 public road crossings is a formidable task (but not as big as Trump’s US-Mexican border construction). But, I would imagine that EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and his band of Brexit mediators in Brussels will now be rubbing their hands with glee at Theresa May’s predicament. How can she comply with a Brussels demand for a hard border when she may have to rely on the DUP’s support in a critical Brexit vote?
I would not want to be in Theresa May’s shoes this morning but I do have a solution to the hard border problem: release Northern Ireland from its membership of the UK and allow the province to reunify with the Republic of Ireland. After all, 56% of the voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in last year’s Referendum. This solution removes the 10 votes from Parliament (actually, it removes all 18 Northern Ireland parliamentary seats) and gets Barnier off May’s back.
Now, there’s an idea.