British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t strike many as a gambler, she was, as The Economist says, seen by most to be “an honest plodder: a safe pair of hands who kept her promises and did her homework.“
But now she has broken the mould, and a promise, and she has called a general election.
First, and mainly, in my opinion, it is, as the Financial Times says, “she sought a direct mandate for her plan to deliver a smooth British exit from the EU.” The FT goes on to say that “The pound rose on expectations that the prime minister would win a much increased Commons majority, allowing her to sideline implacable Eurosceptics in her Conservative party and ensure a phased Brexit concluding with a UK-EU free-trade deal. Further, the Financial Times says, “Polls predict a heavy defeat for the opposition Labour party, which has been in disarray under the leadership of leftwinger Jeremy Corbyn.“
Second, I suspect, she wants to be secure until about 2021 or even into 2022, with the internal opposition (Conservative, Labour and the Scottish Nationalists) squashed until Brexit is a fully done deal and she has secured trade deals with the USA, China, India and Canada.
There are reports that many, many European leaders, including even Angela Merkel, the pragmatist, believe that the United Kingdom will “come to its senses” if the Brexit deal is hard enough. Prime Minister May wants to pull that rug out from under them. I believe that she thinks that, for better or worse, the referendum is done and the results are binding .. there is no turning back: not for Britain and not for her. An increased majority will strengthen Britain’s negotiating hand and deflate the hopes of the Europeans who fear, as they should, that the Brexit is just the start of a process that will either unravel the EU or see it mightily, perhaps unrecognizably, reformed.
But there are risks.
The first risk is that she will not secure the bigger majority that she needs and that will make the Brexit she wants, and the Brexit that Britain needs, harder to get. It is an election ~ and, as we just demonstrated when we tossed out a perfectly good, very able government and replaced it with a gang of untested amateurs, elections are “crap shoots:” major gambles, fraught with dangers for those who take risks.
The second big risk is that even if she gets a bigger majority it will be, as the Brexit vote was, concentrated in England. Left leaning, pro_EU Scotland, in particular, is likely to defy Mrs May and vote for Labour and/or the SNP. Her election may further exacerbate the divisions between England and Scotland (and between England and Northern Ireland) and embolden the separatists in both places. Getting a better deal for Britain could destroy the United Kingdom after somewhere between 100 and 500 years, depending on how one reads the history of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
On balance, in my opinion, the potential (likely) rewards outweigh the risks .
Canada should support Prime Minister May by pushing, soon and hard, for a Canada-UK, or, preferably, a four way CANZUK trade deal as proposed by Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole. We should support Prime Minister May and the UK because it is one of only a tiny handful of countries, maybe less than a dozen in all, that are traditional, proven, trusted friends and allies: the other four “Anglosphere” nations, the Dutch and Scandinavians, and that’s nearly it. Even France, our other “mother country” tried, perfidiously and for its own selfish, even imperialistic reasons to destabilize Canada back in the 1960s ~ close to an act of war and a reason we should have forced them out of NATO is they hadn’t quit on their own. Real friends are hard to find, we’re lucky to have ten or twelve in the whole world … we should keep them close. Mrs May could use serious Canada-UK trade negotiations to her advantage and they are an opportunity for Canada to secure a better trade deal with a top-ten global economy.