Seeking to capitalise on high popularity ratings, the Conservative Party leader and prime minister called for a snap election despite her initial pledges not to, urging voters to give her a stronger mandate to lead the UK’s Brexit ngotiations.
“What the country needs more than ever is certainty,” May said on Friday after the outcome of Thursday’s vote.
She had called the election in an effort to extend her majority and strengthen her hand in the looming Brexit negotiations, but her gamble backfired spectacularly.
May’s Conservative Party won 319 seats in the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of parliament, landing seven seats short of a majority.
In the 2015 general election, the Conservatives had won 331 seats.
None of the other parties that stood for election managed to surpass the majority threshold, resulting in a British hung parliament.
Mandate from the queen
May, who received a mandate from Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government, was forced to rely on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) 10 seats in parliament to pass legislation.
“It is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that,” May said in a short speech at 10 Downing Street.
“This will allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal.”
Downing Street has confirmed that some members of the cabinet will hold on to their posts.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis, and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, will be part of May’s new government.
Corbyn called on May to resign after she lost her majority in parliament.
“The prime minister called this election because she wanted a mandate,” Corbyn said at the vote count in his constituency.
“Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence.
“I would have thought that’s enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country.”
Labour Shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggested his party could form a minority government.
“We have laid the foundations for a minority government, and then eventually a majority government,” he told the BBC.
Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, joined the ranks of those demanding May to step down.
A so-called progressive alliance between Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens would have 313 seats.
For its part, the EU urged May on Friday to start Brexit talks as quickly as possible, but warned of complications ahead.
Donald Tusk, European Council president, said the “urgent task” was to conduct talks “in the best possible spirit” and minimise disruption for citizens and businesses.
Britain and the EU are at odds over almost every detail of the Brexit process, but European officials had hoped a strong win for May would make it easier to override domestic opposition and compromise.
The fact that May was forced to rely on the DUP in parliament further complicates Brexit negotiations for her.
While the DUP favoured the UK’s break from the EU, the party opposed a so-called hard Brexit and insisted that free trade with the 27 country bloc and safeguarding the rights of EU nationals in Britain are among its priorities.