“I will now form a government — a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country,” a grim-faced May said Friday outside 10 Downing Street.
She promised no delays in negotiations with the European Union, which were scheduled to begin later this month.
“What the country needs more than ever is certainty,” said May, who had called for the “snap election” on April 18 – three years ahead of schedule – in the hopes of boosting her party’s ranks in Parliament.
Instead, her election gamble to gain strength in the EU negotiations fizzled and the Conservatives lost their majority while Jeremy Corbyn’s rival Labour Party gained power.
A triumphant Corbyn — once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper — said May should resign and that he wanted to form a minority government because the country “had enough of austerity politics,” the Washington Post reported.
“The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate,” Corbyn said after winning re-election to his north London district. “Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go, actually.”
But after visiting Buckingham Palace, May remained defiant and said that as long as the Conservatives remain the largest party, only they have the “legitimacy” to govern, according to the BBC.
She said she would join with “friends and allies” in the Democratic Unionist Party to take forward Brexit.
EU leaders fear that May’s majority loss would delay the talks, which are due to begin June 19.
The Conservatives are pushing for a “hard Brexit” by severing all ties with the EU, while Labour prefers a “soft Brexit,” which calls for keeping borders open and reducing tariffs on British exports.
“What tonight is about is the rejection of Theresa May’s version of extreme Brexit,” said Keir Starmer, Labour’s policy chief on Brexit, Reuters reported.
EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: “We need a government that can act. With a weak negotiating partner, there’s a danger that the (Brexit) negotiations will turn out badly for both sides.”
The Conservatives were forecast to win 319 seats – seven short of the 326 needed for a majority and ahead of Labour’s 261 and the pro-independence Scottish National Party’s 35, the BBC reported.
Combined, the Conservatives and the DUP would have 329 MPs in the Commons.
“This government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union,” she said.
“It will work to keep our nation safe and secure by delivering the change that I set out following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London – cracking down on the ideology of Islamist extremism and all those who support it. And giving the police and the authorities the powers they need to keep our country safe,” she continued.
The stunning results thrust Northern Ireland’s DUP into the forefront, with its 10 seats enough to give the Conservatives a fragile partnership in which the DUP would support a Conservative minority government without a formal coalition.