LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May sought Monday to rally lawmakers from her Conservative Party behind her leadership amid doubts over her ability to remain in power following last week’s disastrous election result.
May, who is trying to wrap up an arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that would allow her to lead a government with a majority of votes in the House of Commons, moved to demonstrate that she understands the frustration within her own ranks following the election.
Britain’s Press Association, quoting two unnamed sources from the meeting, said May told lawmakers at a closed-door session that she admitted she was the one who “got us into this mess” and vowed that she would be the one who will “get us out of it.”
The meeting with the rank-and-file, some of whom have called for May to step aside sooner rather than later, was brought forward a day.
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May has taken the blame for the Conservatives’ relatively poor showing in last Thursday’s election, in which the party surprisingly lost its majority.
With opinion polls showing the Conservatives with a commanding lead over the opposition Labour Party, May had called an early election in hopes of increasing her majority in Parliament and strengthening her position in negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Instead, the election obliterated her political authority and the party is trying to secure the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party lawmakers to assure passage of May’s program.
With a deal still to be confirmed, there was speculation that the announcement of the government’s agenda, known as the Queen’s Speech, could be delayed by from the planned date next Monday. Delay would represent a highly unusual circumstance in a country where the monarch’s schedule is determined months in advance.
David Davis, the cabinet member in charge of Brexit, said talks with the EU may not start on Monday as planned because it would clash with the scheduled date of the Queen’s Speech. However, he insisted they will begin next week.
“It may not be on the Monday because we also have got the Queen’s Speech that week and I will have to speak in that, and so on,” he told Sky News.
Davis suggested the government would focus on the divorce proceedings before moving on to trade. The divorce issues include the rights of EU citizens in Britain as well as U.K. citizens in the EU, how much Britain will have to pay to cover previous spending commitments and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The EU has said that sufficient progress must be made on these issues before trade deals can be discussed, though Britain had argued the talks should take place simultaneously.
Some lawmakers, particularly those from the Scottish National Party, are urging cross-party discussions to reach a consensus on Britain’s exit from the EU.
May’s failure to get a majority has undercut her tough Brexit strategy, which had raised fears that Britain was heading for a so-called “hard Brexit,” which could potentially see tariffs slapped on British exports to the bloc.
The prime minister’s most prominent potential rival, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, sought to quash any suggestion that she would be ousted imminently. Writing in the mass-circulation Sun newspaper, Johnson stressed that the Conservatives won more votes than at any time since Margaret Thatcher and are still the largest party in Parliament.
“The people of Britain have had a bellyful of promises and politicking,” he wrote. “Now is the time for delivery — and Theresa May is the right person to continue that vital work.”
Over the weekend, May’s top two aides stepped aside. Many in the party were furious at the pair for shutting them out of decision-making during the election campaign.
May also restored former Justice Secretary Michael Gove to the Cabinet in another move designed to show she was willing to listen to critics. Gove, who was dismissed when May became prime minister last year, will now serve as environment secretary.
Moody’s Investors Service said the inconclusive election outcome would complicate and “probably delay” negotiations with the EU.
“Overall, we believe that the election outcome will hamper Brexit negotiations and increase fiscal risks, and therefore be negative for the U.K.’s credit profile,” Moody’s said in a statement.
“However, the Conservative Party’s reduced share of the vote may indicate a higher likelihood that a ‘softer’ form of Brexit might now be pursued, involving compromises with the EU that Ms. May would not have countenanced previously, and which would be positive.”
With the Brexit process uncertain, the pound suffered further falls in the foreign exchange markets, trading another 0.7 percent lower at $1.2653.
As discussion continued, a leading business organization said the political uncertainty is leading to a “dramatic drop” in confidence. The Institute of Directors survey said company directors see no clear way to resolve the political situation quickly. They also believe another election would negatively impact the U.K. economy.
“It is hard to overstate what a dramatic impact the current political uncertainty is having on business leaders, and the consequences could — if not addressed immediately — be disastrous for the U.K. economy,” said Stephen Martin, the director-general of the IoD.