On Tuesday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called for a general election on June 8th, with the aim of shoring up more conservative support in parliament. "There should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division," May said, referring to opposition she faces in moving ahead with Brexit. "Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger," she added.
If May is successful in winning more seats in parliament, she would have a stronger hand in Brexit negotiations, and would be more likely to remove the country from the E.U. single market trade zone.
"In the near-term, this is going to hurt," says Ian Bremmer, the founder and president of consulting firm Eurasia Group. "A lot of companies are going to have a harder time navigating these rules, tariffs are clearly going to be higher, and E.U. countries at the end of the day are the most important partners in trade that the U.K. has." He points out that while Britain has said it intends to create new trade deals, these will have to be negotiated from scratch, which would take time.
Of course, holding an election is always a risk for the ruling party. There is a chance that May's opposition could gain power in parliament, and influence a stronger relationship with Europe--i.e., a "soft Brexit," in which the U.K. might remain in the free trade zone. "If you want to keep Britain in the single market, if you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance," said Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, in a statement.
Ultimately, though, Bremmer sees the move as a smart one on May's part. "Brexit was going to happen no matter what, and this gives her a much better mandate to make it happen," he says. "It makes it much harder for the Pro-E.U. types in the Tory party to end up working with the opposition to try to change what Brexit will look like."