What next for Brexit stalemate as Tories and SNP battle post-election wobbles

UK general election 2017 in numbersNewsweek

The 8 June general election in the UK took a heavy toll on both the Conservative Party in England, which had been widely expected to increase its majority by taking Labour-held seats, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) which lost 21 of its MPs at Westminster.

Although both remain the largest party in their respective spheres – the Tories in the UK as a whole and the SNP's clear majority of Scottish Westminster seats (35) – each of them is in a much weaker What next position than before the general election.

The fault has been put fairly and squarely at the door of each of the party's respective leaders, Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for campaigns that centred very much around them.

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The result has seen a contrite Theresa May apologising to her MPs on 12 June for calling an early election, and congratulating Conservative MP John Bercow on being re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons on 13 June, by the landslide she failed to achieve – he was actually re-elected unopposed.

To date, I haven't heard of any contrition from Sturgeon. Whilst acknowledging that a second referendum for Scottish Independence had become so identified, like it or not, with the SNP and that this was a factor in the party losing so many of its seats, the First Minister claimed that there were other factors over which she was "still reflecting" on 13 June.

Whereas the Conservatives increased their popular vote if not their seat count, this small comfort does not apply to the SNP. In 2015, the SNP got 1,454,436 votes – a fraction under 50% of the Scottish total vote – and 56 of Scotland's 59-seat representation at Westminster. Last week it got 977,569 votes, 37% and 35 seats.

Maybe just to please Sturgeon, the "Terrible Tories" increased their Scottish vote from 434,000 to 758,000, indicating that a lot more people now do not think that Scotland's problems lie at the Conservative's door, for the SNP has been in power since 2007. Meanwhile, Labour got 9,000 votes more and the Liberal Democrats lost about 40,000 between 2015 and 2017 Elections.

Sturgeon may have to reflect that the SNP could need a root and branch overhaul and the figures certainly lend substance to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson's observation made in May 2016 and since oft repeated with greater confidence, that "peak Nat" had passed.

More important than political point scoring is the SNP's poor record on Education – which Sturgeon just before the Election took "full responsibility" for; a Scottish NHS under severe strain (though this is common to the rest of the UK); and getting a lot less attention than it deserves, a Budget deficit that's close to 10% of Scotland's GDP. These three, along with others, are devolved issues for Holyrood.

Coming on for a week after the general election and with talks on Brexit due to start in Brussels on 19 June, the UK is in a peculiar position, having a Conservative minority government, eight short of an overall majority, still awaiting a working parliamentary majority as talks continue with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) lead by Arlene Foster. The DUP is right wing and is seen, generally, to represent Northern Ireland's Protestant community.

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Although no formal coalition will be formed between the Conservatives and the DUP, there will be an agreement to support the Conservatives for the Queen's Speech, Budget and key votes issues where a government defeat would trigger a Vote of Confidence motion by the Opposition.

In 2015 when there was thought to be even a probability of a "hung parliament", the DUP with 10 Westminster members, Eurosceptic and wanting Brexit, drew up a list of what they would like if placed in the position that they now find themselves.

The only issue that could be seen as "political" is the party's insistence that there should be protection from prosecution of former soldiers and policemen during "The Troubles". Otherwise it's all economic.

The DUP is expected to want more aid, especially for infrastructure projects, especially where current EU rules preclude this; more control and reduction of Air Passenger Duty – something like the SNP has now been given in Scotland; and the control of corporation taxes, lowering them to be more competitive and in line with the Irish Republic's.

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Nothing revolutionary then, and given the Labour leadership's support for the IRA in the past, there is no way that the DUP would give their support to the Opposition.

Although we are assured all is ready, the announcement of the settlement expected on the 14 June, has been postponed, possibly until next week.

This is because of the terrible tragedy that has taken place in London at the Grenfell Tower blaze in Kensington in the early morning of 14 June. The blaze which engulfed the 24-storey building, has caused the deaths of at least six people, injured scores more with 20 in a critical condition, and made up to 600 homeless.

After all the election hullabaloo, the real concern is that the country is no further forward and as confused and divided as ever over Brexit. Well, at least Scottish Independence has been buried for quite a while at any rate.

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