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Live Briefing: The Latest: Theresa May’s Future in Doubt After U.K. Vote

Will Theresa May step down?

The Conservative Party’s stunning setback immediately had prominent political figures wondering about the future of Mrs. May, although the BBC reported on Friday morning that she had no intention of stepping down. (If she did resign, she would be the shortest-serving prime minister since Andrew Bonar Law, who served 209 days between 1922 and 1923.)

A former Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, batted away the idea. “I think it would be a grave error to go into the turmoil of a leadership election,” he told the BBC, while acknowledging that Mrs. May had “found her position diminished.”

A former small business minister, Anna Soubry, suggested that Mrs. May should go. “I think she’s in a very difficult place,” she told the BBC. “I’m afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign.” Asked what went wrong, she says: “Where do you want me to begin? It was a dreadful campaign.”

Yvette Cooper, a Labour Party lawmaker, said that Mrs. May had called the election as “a referendum on herself, and she has lost — I don’t see how she can carry on.”

Mr. Corbyn dangled the (unlikely) possibility that the Labour Party could lead a minority government, telling the BBC: “We’re ready to serve the people, who have given their trust to us.”

Why the Tories lost

John Curtice, a political scientist at the University of Strathclyde and the BBC’s resident polling expert, said Labour benefited from a big shift in support from two groups: Young voters and people who voted to remain in the European Union. That more than offset the Conservatives’ gain from a sharp decline in support for the right-wing U.K. Independence Party.

The Labour Party seized a seat in Canterbury, in southeast England, that the Conservatives had held since World War I. It took back the seat for Glasgow Northeast from the Scottish National Party. And it held on in Wales, a traditional stronghold.

The impact on ‘Brexit’

Talks between Britain and the 27 other members of the European Union are scheduled to begin on June 19, in accordance with the two-year process for departure from the bloc. Mrs. May had said she was calling the election to strengthen her party’s hand going into the negotiations. Instead, Britain will enter those negotiations substantially weakened and divided.

That could mean that Britain is willing to take a softer stance, one involving more concessions, in the talks. “‘Hard Brexit’ went in the rubbish bin tonight,” George Osborne, a former chancellor of the Exchequer, told ITV News. “Theresa May is probably going to be one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in our history.”

David Davis, the official assigned to oversee the withdrawal, told the BBC that the Conservative Party might have to revisit its pledge to take Britain out of the European single market and customs union.

That would be a major concession, and it immediately evoked outrage from Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, an ardent backer of Brexit and a persistent thorn in the side of the Conservatives. On Twitter, he was harshly critical of Mrs. May.

Ed Miliband, a former Labour Party leader, said it was impossible for Mrs. May to lead the negotiations.

However, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hard-line euroskeptic Conservative, said he believed Mrs. May would continue leading the negotiations. “The prime minister is the prime minister,” he said.

A bad night for some prominent figures

Support for the U.K. Independence Party, which won more than 12 percent of the vote in the 2015 general election, collapsed to around 2 percent. The party failed to win a single seat in Parliament, and its leader, Paul Nuttall, lost in Boston and Skegness, a district where three in four voters opted last June to leave the European Union.

While Mrs. May was re-elected to her seat in Maidenhead, England, other ministers in her government were not so fortunate. Among the Conservative ministers who were toppled were Jane Ellison and Simon Kirby, who work in the Treasury; Ben Gummer, a cabinet office minister; Gavin Barwell, the housing minister; and James Wharton, an international development minister. Home Secretary Amber Rudd barely held on to her seat, in Hastings and Rye, England.

Nick Clegg, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, was ousted, but another former leader of the party, Vince Cable, won back a seat he had lost in the 2015 general election.

Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party’s top lawmaker in the British Parliament, lost his seat. So did Alex Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland and a leader in the push for Scottish independence, who entered the British Parliament only two years ago, in 2015.

Turnout was high

As of 7 a.m., turnout was running at 68.7 percent, from an electorate of 46.8 million. It was the highest turnout for a British general election since 1997, when the Labour Party under Tony Blair won a historic victory — the first of three consecutive election wins.

The pound fell

The British pound fell sharply immediately after the release on Thursday night of an exit poll that showed that the election would likely result in a hung Parliament.

As the results have largely borne out that forecast, the currency has edged lower still. The pound was down more than 2 percent against the dollar, at $ 1.2656, its lowest level in about two months.

Source: NYT > World

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