British Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting for survival on Saturday after a failed election gamble undermined her authority and plunged the country into a major political crisis, days before the start of talks to leave the European Union.
May’s bet that she could strengthen her hand by crushing what she believed to be a weak opposition Labour Party backfired spectacularly on Thursday as voters stripped her Conservative Party of a parliamentary majority.
The stunning outcome leaves May battling to unite different factions in her party and reliant on a handful of Northern Irish parliamentarians just nine days before Britain starts the tortuous process of negotiating its departure from the EU.
May’s two top aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, announced they had quit on Saturday, following sustained criticism of the campaign within the party.
Britain’s typically pro-Conservative press savaged May on Saturday and questioned whether she could remain in power, only two months after she started the clock ticking on the two-year EU divorce process.
The best-selling Sun newspaper said senior members of the party had vowed to get rid of May, but would wait at least six months because they feared a leadership contest could propel Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into power.
“She’s staying, for now,” one Conservative Party source told Reuters.
The outcome risks upsetting the political balance in Northern Ireland by aligning London more closely with the pro-British side in the divided province, and increases the chance that Britain will fall out of the EU in 2019 without a deal.
May called the snap election to win a clear mandate for her plan to take Britain out of the EU’s single market and customs union, so she could slash immigration.
But her party is deeply divided over what it wants from Brexit and the result means British businesses still have no idea what trading rules they can expect in the coming years.
The British pound tumbled against the U.S. dollar and the euro after the election result.