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Europe Reacts to General Election Results: ‘Theresa May Is No Margaret Thatcher’

Leaders across Europe have been reacting to the news that the Conservatives have lost their majority, pitching the country back into hung Parliament territory.

Unsurprisingly the main concern on the continent is how the result will impact Brexit. With negotiations due to begin in just under two weeks, EU leaders have been urging the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to get her house in order as fast as possible.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk urged the British to “do your best to avoid “no deal”, a theme he followed up in a letter of congratulations to Theresa May.

“Our shared responsibility and urgent task now is to conduct the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in the best possible spirit, securing the least disruptive outcome for our citizens, businesses and countries after March 2019,” he wrote, adding: “The timeframe set by Article 50 of the Treaty leaves us with no time to lose.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also urged the moving forward of Brexit talks, albeit with less haste.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker meanwhile merely urged Britain to form a government “as soon as possible”.

“As far as the Commission is concerned we can open negotiations tomorrow morning at half past nine,” he said, according to the BBC.

“First we have to agree on the divorce and exit modalities, and then we have to envisage the architecture of our future relations. I do hope that the result of the elections will have no major impact on the negotiations we are desperately waiting for.”

Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and a member of the EU’s Brexit negotiating team, made no secret of his hopes ahead of the election, tweeting a picture of EU and British unity.

As the results came in he did not hold back, calling the outcome an “own goal” for the Conservatives.

German politicians meanwhile were bullish, clearly viewing the result as a victory for the EU’s negotiating team.  Elmar Brok, Brexit representative for Angela Merkel’s CDU Party in the European Parliament predicted May’s resignation, saying: “Theresa May’s authority in her own party is broken. She has become a weak prime minister and negotiator. It is quite possible she will go.”

Jens Geier of the rival SPD was similarly scathing. “She missed her target of an absolute majority,” he said. “The Prime Minister hasn’t got the support for a strengthened negotiating position with the rest of the EU member states.”

Martin Schulz, who is running against Merkel in the upcoming German elections meanwhile confirmed he had gone a step further and had reached out to May’s rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jaroslaw Gowin, deputy prime minister in Poland’s conservative government was less thrilled, describing the results as a “bad sign for Europe” which “deepened the uncertainties over the future of Europe,” the Telegraph has reported.

Further afield, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house quipped that Theresa May had “stepped on Cameron’s rake” and had scored “the home goal of the season”.

“What happens next is far less predictable,” Mr Kosachev said via Facebook, “but in any case, the next government won’t have guaranteed support in parliament and the efficiency of its work will decrease. Equally predictable is a period of instability and a decline of British authority in international affairs.”

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera meanwhile was decisive in its verdict, proclaiming: “Theresa’s gamble failed, she is no Margaret Thatcher.”

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