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© Pathfynder Limited 2018. Pathfynder Solicitors is a trading name of Pathfynder Limited, a company registered in England and Wales with company registration number 10170947. The registered address is King House, 5-11 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 4UA. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, SRA No. 629672.


Another twist in the road - May calls for a snap election - 20 Apr 2017

General election 2017The Prime Minister has called for a snap general election to be held on 8 June 2017.

This news was an unexpected development in the Brexit saga, considering Theresa May did not want to hold a general election until 2020. The official reason given by the Prime Minister is to ensure that the public can vote for a party which represents the way they want Brexit to happen.

How a general election can occur

In the past, the Prime Minister could call a general election and dissolve Parliament whenever they liked. However, after The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 was enacted as law, the Prime Minister can only call a snap general election through either:

- A vote in the House of Commons which carries the agreement of two-thirds of MPs; or

- A vote of no confidence in the current government.

Theresa May brought a vote to the Commons on Wednesday 19 April 2017, which saw an overwhelming number of 590 MPs across different parties supporting the motion for an election. There was a clear majority amongst the MPs to back an early election with only 13 MPs voting against the motion. What this vote now does is set up the framework for political parties to campaign and get their views across to the British public.

What is a general election?

Although the last general election is not too distant in our memories, it is worthwhile to revisit how our voting system works.

The UK uses the ‘first-past-the-post’ system to elect Members of Parliament into the House of Commons, and ultimately get a political party into government. The UK is split up into 650 constituencies; each constituency is represented by one Member of Parliament from a political party. In a general election, each voter puts a cross next to their favorite candidate on the ballot paper, from a selection of candidates, within their constituency. The candidate which gets the most votes within a constituency will then represent that constituency as an MP in the House of Commons. The political party which achieves a majority (ie 326 MPs in the House of Commons) can then approach the Queen with a view to forming a Government.

A Government with a majority in the Commons is the preferred method of government as it enables the political party to pass laws and shape the UK according to their political values. However, the fractured nature of recent British politics has meant that it has now always been possible for a single political party to achieve a majority in the Commons. If that occurs again, we could see a coalition being formed as we saw in 2010.

Who is most likely to win the election?

The Financial Times polls, at the time of writing, suggested that the Conservative party have the majority of support from voters in the UK with 44%. The Labour party, having been under a lot of scrutiny as to whether they will be an effective opposition to the Conservative government, stand at 25% of the UK vote. Below the two major parties are the Liberal Democrats at 10% and the Green Party at 4%. The Green party have suggested
a coalition pact with both the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, in order to defeat a conservative government. The Scottish National Party have also toyed with the idea of a coalition government with the Labour party; however many of their supporters have not been supportive of this idea. The Prime Minister also stated that the Conservative party will not be involved in televised debates; which has met the disdain of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and others, who see it as not doing justice to the British public. However, the Guardian reported that the other parties are still going to hold televised debates without the Prime Minister being present.

The polls at this point reflect a conservative lead in front; however, 2016 was a year which surprised many, as both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were notable events which contradicted what the polls predicted. Considering these events and how unexpected they were, assessing what will happen on election day is hard to predict. As a result, the UK will have to hold its breath and wait to see what will happen 50 days’ time from now.

What will the election result mean for EU nationals in the UK?

This general election will be a crucial turning point for the UK. The new Government (or potential coalition Government) will have the mandate to decide what terms the UK puts forward to the EU when negotiations start. The Prime Minister triggered Article 50 on 29 March 2017, which began the negotiating process of Brexit but it is still unclear in what direction Brexit will go. The Telegraph reported in March that resolving the rights of EU nationals was high on the Prime Ministers’ list of priorities. However, recent comments from the Prime Minister have suggested that Brexit may not necessarily kill free movement completely; there is a possibility, at least temporarily, that free movement between the EU and the UK could still occur years after Brexit. However, with the general election around the corner it is unclear what line the Prime Minister would take if she were re-elected. Other political parties have yet to decide what position they are going to take in terms of tackling Brexit negotiations. However, this should become clearer over the coming weeks when they present their case to the British public.

Something very important to note is that the UK general election itself does not alter the status of EU nationals in the UK. Both EU and UK nationals will still maintain their free movement rights and benefits under EU law, until there is a change in the law.

Written by Darren Chin

Please note that this article is for information only and should not be taken as legal and/or financial advice. Immigration law changes regularly and it may be the case that this page has not been updated to take into account the latest changes. If you would like advice on your personal circumstances, please feel free to contact us.