Theresa May’s general election message – if she has one at all – is that voting for her will give her greater negotiating power in Europe. As my colleague Stephen points out, the problem with this is that it isn’t true. A bigger majority for the Conservatives may help them domestically, but it won’t change how EU leaders approach Brexit negotiations.
In fact, the opposite could be true. The Prime Minister may have even less leverage over our Brexit deal if there are more Tory MPs in the Commons. A fear among more Remain-minded Tories is that the new influx of Conservative MPs following the snap election could drag the PM further towards a hard Brexit. Particularly once they lose the power a small majority gives them to rebel constructively.
The concern is that the newbies will be more wedded to a hard Brexit than the current parliamentary party – either because they have been selected as candidates for their hardcore views, or because they have their eyes on promotions and preferment in May’s government and believe hard euroscepticism is the way to her heart. We have already seen that May feels the need to tack herself to the more extreme end of euroscepticism in her party.
“It all depends on what kind of Conservatives she got returned,” says one senior Tory MP who campaigned for Remain, reflecting on the prospect of an increased Tory majority. “What sort of Conservatives [will be elected]?” They tell me that, “there’s a certain wide range of opinion at the moment among Conservatives as to what to do” about Brexit – a broad church that could be overridden by a new influx of eurosceptic ultras, or career Brexiteers.