UK Election Cheer For Adland As Hard Brexit Rejected

"May" you live in interesting times is a joke going round social this morning, alongside a meme from a satirical tv show that this morning May faced "a hard breakfast" and "June really was the end of May." Joking aside, the one thing we can say without any doubt about last night's result is that a hard Brexit is off the cards, and many in adland will be relieved.

But let's be clear. Nobody won last night, other than Northern Ireland's Democratic Union Party (DUP), whose ten seats now make them power brokers in Westminster. The Conservatives are wounded, but they're not down and out and everyone is being reminded that the full name of the party is the Conservative and Unionist Party -- a term that has been dropped over the last couple of decades, until this morning.

For the uninitiated looking in on the UK from afar, the country is now in a very odd place. The incumbent Prime Minister, Theresa May, won the election but lost seats and so does not command a majority in the House of Commons. The Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn -- a little like the UK's answer to Bernie Sanders -- won more seats, but not enough to form a government. He offered free university education, re-nationalisation and big spending on public services, paid for by taxing the rich, as you'd imagine for a Labour Manifesto. The result was record turnouts as young people took to the ballot box. However, it wasn't enough. No party earned a majority.



There was no need to call an election, but Theresa May did so to gain a larger majority. It was a plan that has spectacularly back-fired. She was seen as an autocue robot who avoided public debate and launched a manifesto that was uncosted. She had the newspapers behind her, she was polling well, and so thought it would be a cake walk. It turned into Macarthur Park. 

The Conservatives need just a handful of seats to from a government, and the DUP's 10 MPs take it just over the winning line. The party will be accused of getting too close to a Northern Irish party with a non-liberal record on LGBT rights, climate change and abortion, let alone getting along with one's Catholic neighbours. Still, add all the opposition seats to the Labour total and they don't get over the winning line either. Right here, today, a Conservative minority government kept in power by the DUP is the only option.

So what does this mean for the UK and adland? Well, the headline that is screaming out as us is hard Brexit seems a bargaining position of the past. The DUP has made it very clear that -- very sensibly for them -- it wants a soft border with the Republic of Ireland and to be a part of a free trade agreement with the EU. In ten days time when the Brexit negotiations begin in Brussels, the DUP will not accept a stance that could lead to a hard border with the ROI and goods being taxed as they cross what is, at the moment, an invisible border. 

Theresa May had dreamed of a huge majority that would allow her to lay down the law in Brussels with hard Brexit an option. That has disappeared. If the DUP gets a sniff of a tariff border going up between Northern Ireland and the ROI, they'll walk and she will fall.

One can never say an entire industry holds one view, but it's fair to say anyone in the service sector -- particularly adland -- will approve. London and the home counties surrounding it (to the west, if not the east) were all very pro-Remain, and if you're working in an industry with a positive balance of trade with the EU, the last thing you want is tariffs on your services. Sure, there's a whole big world out there we could sell our services to. But if you want to carry on as usual, and take the less risky route, a free trade agreement with the EU is a more comforting option.

That's what we have right now. But remember, any withdrawal of support from the DUP, the smallest of bank bench rebellions, and the government falls -- and it's back to the ballot and May will fall through a self-inflicted wound. Given a huge split in the Conservative party over the nature of Brexit, a bank bench rebellion is not unimaginable. She is now being kept in power by a soft Brexit party, but her own back benches are full of the staunchest EU opponents. Expect friction, and keep an eye on the odds for a second election before they year is out.

The country's in political turmoil -- but if you're in adland and you've been dreading hard Brexit, last night was a move in the right direction, although it has come wrapped up in a whole bundle of confusion.

Next story loading loading..