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Still image from video footage shows Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the House of Commons in London on April 19, 2017. (Reuters)

UK parliament clears mid-term ‘Brexit poll’

WT24 Desk

The cut-and-thrust of electoral politics began in right earnest in the House of Commons on Wednesday after a government motion to hold a mid-term election on June 8 was passed by two-thirds majority, setting the stage for new political alignments,Hindustan Times reports.

Prime Minister Theresa May chided opposition leaders for trying to join hands, and insisted she and her Conservative Party alone could get the best Brexit deal for Britain. The mid-term election has already been dubbed a “Brexit election”.

The motion was passed with 522 in favour and 13 against. The Brexit-related circumstances of the election are likely to lead to new voting behaviour based more on support and opposition to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, rather than on party-based allegiances and preferences.

It is also likely to record a low turnout, given growing weariness over another round of polls. It is the fourth round of voting in four years, after the Scotland’s independence referendum of 2014, the general election of 2015, and the EU referendum in 2016.

There were passionate exchanges during Prime Minister’s Question Time. Fending off repeated barbs for not agreeing to appear on live television debates between party leaders, May said she would be out on the streets debating with everyone, and accused the opposition of trying to divide Britain.

According to her, three leaders of the main parties – Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron and Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon – were trying to come together before the election to allegedly divide the country on the issue of Brexit.

Several MPs across parties announced their decision not to contest the election, including former chancellor George Osborne, recently appointed editor of the mass circulation Evening Standard. He also has other engagements.

During the exchanges in the House, Corbyn sought to turn the debate to non-Brexit issues such as health, employment, funding cuts and education, while May and her party’s focus was on Brexit. Labour faces criticism that its stand on Brexit is not clear enough.

May repeated her reasons for calling the mid-term poll, insisting that opposition parties and the House of Lords were allegedly a hurdle to her government securing a good deal for Britain from Brussels. A renewed mandate is expected to help overcome such hurdles and carping.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier in the day, May said: “I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly, having looked at the circumstances, and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation.

“I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations to get the best possible deal because that’s in our long-term interests. That’s what this is about, it’s about asking the people to trust me, to trust us in government, to give us that mandate to go and get that really good deal for the UK.”

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