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Hopes for soft Brexit diminish

Brexit negotiations finally started on 19 June, almost a year after the UK voted to leave the bloc. But hopes among pro-Europeans that the 8 June general election result might lead the UK government to seek closer future ties with the EU were dashed before talks got underway.

The election wiped out the governing Conservative party’s majority in the UK parliament, forcing it to seek an alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. The political power of prime minister Theresa May was severely undermined, but senior party members have clung on to her pre-election Brexit plan.

In TV interviews on 18 June, chancellor Philip Hammond, who is in charge of the country’s finances but is not close to May, confirmed that the government would seek to leave the EU’s single market and customs union. His only softening of May’s Brexit stance was to acknowledge that not reaching a deal would be a “very, very bad outcome for Britain”.

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