UK Politics

General election: Tory victory 'will not strengthen May's Brexit hand'

Theresa May Image copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May has said the election is needed because Westminster is divided over Brexit

Theresa May's claims that a general election victory will strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations have been called "nonsensical" by the European Parliament's chief Brexit co-ordinator.

Guy Verhofstadt, a long-standing critic of Brexit, wrote in The Observer that it was "irrelevant" whether the Conservatives increased their majority.

Instead, Mrs May appeared to be driven by "political opportunism", he said.

Mrs May says the poll is needed because Westminster is divided over Brexit.

The decision to hold the election on 8 June - three years earlier than scheduled - was approved on Wednesday, with 522 MPs in favour and 13 against.

Mr Verhofstadt wrote: "The theory espoused by some, that Theresa May is calling a general election on Brexit in order to secure a better deal with the EU, is nonsensical.

"Will the election of more Tory MPs give Theresa May a greater chance of securing a better Brexit deal?

"For those sitting around the table in Brussels, this is an irrelevance."

Mr Verhofstadt added that many in Brussels believed the chances of a deal were being eroded by Mrs May's "tough negotiating red lines" and a lack of "political room for manoeuvre" domestically.

He said there was no guarantee "a sprinkling of additional Conservative MPs on the backbenches" would change this.

"Indeed, it appears this election is being driven by the political opportunism of the party in government, rather than by the people they represent," he added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Guy Verhofstadt accused Mrs May of being motivated by "political opportunism"

Mrs May has argued that an increased Commons majority would strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations, making it more difficult for the opposition parties at home to obstruct her plans.

In her speech on 18 April, announcing the decision to call an election, she said: "Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.

"So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin."

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