10 June 2017

May clings to power as Tories threaten to split over Brexit

Theresa May was clinging to power last night after her gamble on an early election went disastrously wrong and pro-EU MPs prepared to pounce on her weakness to try to stop the prime minister pursuing a “hard Brexit”.

Mrs May was humiliated at the polls as UK voters refused to give her the “strong mandate” she sought to negotiate a divorce from the EU, leaving her scrambling to form a government with 10 pro-British MPs from a Northern Ireland party and facing a new Tory civil war on Europe.

The prime minister believed that she could crush Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in a seven-week election campaign, but she ended up losing seats and securing just 318, eight short of the 326 needed for an outright Commons majority and 12 fewer than the outgoing parliament.

In a sign of her weakness, Mrs May left her most senior ministers in their jobs rather than risk making new enemies, amid speculation that she could face a leadership challenge later in the year.