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EU Parliament negotiator demands Brexit clarity from Theresa May after botched election gamble

European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, addresses the European Parliament during a debate on Brexit (REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)

European Parliament’s top negotiator for Brexit, has demanded that Prime Minister Theresa May provides clarity on the UK’s stance toward divorce negotiations, following last week’s shock election result.

Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium’s former prime minister, said it was crucial for the UK government to shed light on how it wished to proceed, after Theresa May’s failure to secure a parliamentary majority, created further uncertainty for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

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“We await the position of the United Kingdom,” said Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s point person for the Brexit process, at a news conference on Tuesday.

“It’s unclear if the UK government will stick to the line that they had announced in the letter of the 29th of March or if they will change it… taking into account the outcome of the election.”

Taking to Twitter, Verhofstadt also voiced his frustration on the UK’s apparent lack of direction.

Verhofstadt’s comments come shortly after Brussels chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the Financial Times that Britain must start Brexit talks “very quickly”, or risk crashing out of the European Union without a deal on future relations.

It has been three months since Theresa May fired the starting gun on Article 50, meaning there is just 21 months left for negotiations, until the UK is scheduled to exit the single market.

With formal EU divorce talks due to begin next week, Theresa May is under pressure to secure a deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to remain in government. Her botched election gamble left the Conservatives without enough seats in parliament to secure a majority, weakening May’s mandate to secure a ‘hard Brexit’ even further.

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However, the potential deal has been met with considerable criticism in light of the eurosceptic DUP’s controversial stance toward issues such as gay marriage and abortion, both of which they oppose.

There are also concerns that a deal would risk destabilising the political balance in Northern Ireland, by increasing the influence of pro-British unionists who want to form a united Ireland.

Despite being opposed to the EU’s single market model, the DUP are in favour of a ‘soft Brexit’ to prevent a ‘hard border’ being created between the Republic and Northern Ireland.