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What the EU thinks of Theresa May’s election night shock

The EU27 is frustrated with the Brexiteers. But a hung parliament is not the answer it wants. 

By Julia Rampen

Those Brits who did not stay up into the wee hours watching Labour pull the rug from under the Tories’ feet woke up to news of a hung Parliament.

But they weren’t the only ones keeping a close eye on the constituency counts in Canterbury and Twickenham. For the EU27, Britain’s future Brexit negotiating opponents, watching the predicted Tory landslide dematerialise also made for an interesting night.

Although Theresa May’s refusal to grant the right to remain to EU nationals, and her uncompromising stance on Brexit, has not made her popular in Europe, having accepted the divorce with the UK, the EU27 is keen to finalise it. For this reason, a dysfunctional British government is nothing to celebrate. 

The leading German magazine Der Spiegel noted that Theresa May had been compared with the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, before adding: “‘Tin Lady’ might be more apt.”

But it warned that the UK nonetheless needed a strong and stable government: 

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The government must establish a framework for the Brexit talks, for which there is no historical precedent; it must ensure that Scotland and Northern Ireland remain a part of the United Kingdom; it must fulfil the almost unfulfillable promises it has made; and it must avoid destroying the country’s economy while doing so.

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For Le Monde in France, the election underlined the confused and hesitant state of British politics, both internally and in the image it presented to the EU. 

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, tweeted: “Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; timetable and EU positions are clear. Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, told Politico: “We are ready to start negotiations. I hope that the British will be able to form as soon as possible a stable government.”

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and the most influential head of an EU member state, has remained quiet about the result, with her spokeswoman preferring not to comment until a government is formed. However, her spokeswoman did urge Britain not to delay the Brexit negotiations. 

Meanwhile, May faces an electoral result which gave seats to opponents of a hard Brexit, and at the same time a growing rebellion inside her own party among Brexiteers who fear she could back down on her demands.

The EU27 may be waiting a little longer for Brexit negotiations to start.