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Hung Parliament: What happens next?


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Following the results of the general election, it has been announced that the UK is now operating with a hung parliament.

For those confused, or sleep deprived, this is when no single party has gained enough MPs to form a majority of at least 326 seats and are thus unable to form their own government.

What happens now?

The immediate effects of a hung parliament, at least in terms of the current ruling party, are limited. Until it can be decided who will attempt to form a new government, or until the Prime Minister resigns, Theresa May and the Conservative government will remain in office.

Indeed in 2010, when the last hung parliament occurred, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown remained in office for five days whilst a coalition deal was struck.

However, behind the scenes a series of frenzied talks and negotiations will be taking place to explore possible options of gaining, or retaining, control of government.

The most well-known of these options would be to form a coalition government, whereby a party just short of a majority would form a pact with another smaller party, or parties, to get them over the finishing line.

How could a coalition happen?

In support of the Conservative Party, Nothern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has already expressed potential willingness to form a coalition and in terms of seats this would provide the much needed majority. 

For Labour, Corbyn could form a coalition with both the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, which would also create a majority. Although both Corbyn and the Lib Dems have previously ruled out such a move, this does not necessarily mean it will not happen. 

What about a minority government?

Alternatively, May or Corbyn could opt to go it alone and run a minority government. Although they would be able to fill all ministerial positions with their own party members, the minority government would have to rely on the support of external parties to pass laws and legislation. In this context Labour could lead a minority government, but would require votes from the SNP and the Liberal Democrat MPs to actually elicit change. However if this happened and Labour, who finished second overall in the election, found themselves in government this could leave a serious question mark over their legitimacy with the public.

And when will all this happen?

In terms of time scale, although there is no official deadline for these negotiations, the new Parliament is currently due to meet for the first time on Tuesday 13th June. According to the Cabinet Office guidance Theresa May has until then to either keep the Conservative Party in power, either through coalition or the intention to form a minority government, or render her resignation. Although the last hung parliament in 2010 was resolved within five days, it is expected to take longer to come to a final resolution this time.

What about Brexit?

Finally, in terms of Brexit the hung parliament could potentially delay talks, which are currently scheduled for 19th June, as it may take some time to form a new government strong enough to negotiate. 

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