With the British Parliament at an impasse over how it wants to move forward with Brexit and with less than two weeks to go until the European Union says Britain has to leave the group, some are wondering whether Prime Minister Theresa May might call a general election as a way out.
May called a snap election once before, in April 2017, in a move that was seen by many as an attempt to strengthen her mandate (when the elections rolled around that June, it resulted in a hung parliament and May’s alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party). But she may not be able to call them again.
Britain’s next general election is scheduled for 2022. According to 2011′s Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Parliament automatically dissolves every five years, but a general election can be called earlier if a vote of no confidence passes the House of Commons by a simple majority but no party can win confidence over the next 14 days or if two-thirds of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons vote to hold a general election. (Before the 2011 act, dissolution of Parliament was the queen’s prerogative.)
The trouble for May is that many members of her own Conservative party don’t want new elections. It’s a risk for the party, which could be punished by the public for its internal division and chaos in the country. Some Conservative members of Parliament are nervous about going up against the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who, while controversial in Westminster, is an effective grass-roots campaigner, as he proved in the 2017 election. And new general elections would also mean that Britain would need to remain in the European Union through its May 23 European Parliament elections — as long as Britain is in the European Union, it needs to participate in the elections to remain in good standing and have a say.
Plus, there’s no promise that snap elections would get Britain out of its confusion. Latest polling suggests that an election would deliver another hung Parliament — which wouldn’t necessarily move or improve where the country is today.
Karla Adam in London contributed to this piece.