Britain

Our Slippery Prime Minister

April 21, 2017

Then there is Northern Ireland, where there was, as in Scotland, a Remain majority in the E.U. referendum. Northern Ireland, more than any other part of the U.K., will be damaged by a hard Brexit. Its precarious peace settlement may be unsettled. This unnecessarily and untimely election gives an opportunity to Sinn Fein to make the argument for a united Ireland more forcibly than before. Sinn Fein gained ground on the Unionist parties in last month’s Northern Ireland elections; it may gain more ground still in June.

In short, by choosing to hold an election before the terms of our departure from the E.U. have been negotiated, Mrs. May makes it more likely that she will be remembered as the prime minister who took Britain out of the E.U. and, in doing so, broke up the United Kingdom.

That Domesday scenario may be avoided; nothing, after all, is inevitable in politics. But it has become more probable.

The decision to hold an early and unnecessary election may not look like a gamble, because Mrs. May is sure to be returned with a bigger parliamentary majority. Nevertheless in another sense it is a gamble, and what is at stake is her reputation for honesty and integrity. If she never quite said, “Read my lips, no early election,” she made it quite clear that she had no intention of holding one. Now she has gone back on her word, made a right-about-turn. Why should anyone believe her ever again?

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