原文标题：The Brexit Election
中文摘要：美国大西洋理事会专家Frances G. Burwell在《英国提前大选的影响》一文中表示，4月18日，英国首相特雷莎·梅出乎意料的要求提前举行大选:将原定2020年5月举行的选举提前到2017年6月8日。尽管特雷莎·梅曾多次表示，不会提前举行大选，但英国退欧时间表令她别无选择。当两年的退欧谈判在2019年3月接近尾声时，同样变得清晰的是，离开欧盟将对英国产生巨大影响。在这样的情况下举行选举对于特雷莎·梅所在的保守党而言是一场灾难，因为人们会责备保守党将国家置于这样一种破坏性轨道。另外，英国首相及其政府现在要求提前举行大选几乎不存在风险。真正的问题不在于此次大选对英国脱欧谈判的影响，而在于脱欧谈判对2020年举行大选的影响。（编译：刘小云）
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise decision to call for a snap general election is a powerful admission by her government that Brexit will not be an easy process. The next United Kingdom (UK) general election had been scheduled for May 2020, a date that would force May to campaign just as all the disadvantages of Brexit become clear. On April 18, May called for the election to be moved up to June 8, 2017. With five years allowed between elections, and assuming she wins the contest in June , the prime minister will have an additional two years—until spring 2022—to get through a difficult post-Brexit “transitional” phase before facing the voters again.
While Theresa May has repeatedly said she would not call a snap election, she has been left with little choice by the Brexit timetable. Negotiations with the other twenty-seven members of the European Union (EU-27), are unlikely to start in earnest until the fall, after the German general elections. Once those negotiations are underway, the focus through early 2019 will be on the so-called “divorce settlement;” the terms on which the UK will leave the European Union (EU). This will undoubtedly involve a British payout to settle financial accounts—a figure that some estimate will be as high as €60 billion. The recently published EU negotiating guidelines indicate that Britain may have to stay under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during any transition to new arrangements. Both of these stipulations will be immensely unpopular with voters.
As the two-year deadline for concluding the divorce arrangements nears in March 2019, it will also become clear that leaving the EU will have an enormous impact on Britain. By that time, the regional funds that supported infrastructure development across the poorer areas of the UK will disappear; more foreign companies may have shifted investment (and jobs) to the EU; university students may no longer be able to easily study across Europe through the Erasmus program; vital flows of personal data from the EU may be restricted until a new privacy arrangement is in place; and the City of London – the hub of Britain’s economy – may face an uncertain future outside EU jurisdiction. With only a seventeen-seat majority in the British Parliament, May might even lose the parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal and be forced to resign. Only in mid-2019 will Britain be able to formally negotiate new trade and regulatory arrangements with the European Union and others, including the United States. Such agreements typically take five years or more to conclude, leaving Britain in a very uncertain position by spring 2020.
Conducting an election campaign under such circumstances would be a disaster for the conservatives, May’s Conservative party, who would be blamed for putting the country on such a destructive path. Presumably, the May government would be saved by the weakness of the Labour party. However, if, by 2020, Jeremy Corbyn were no longer the Labour party leader, May could face a real challenge. A Labour-Liberal Democrat-Scottish Nationalist Party pro-EU coalition could mean the end of her premiership, even though any road back to EU membership would be exceptionally difficult. By moving the election to 2022, May puts off the prospect of such a challenge. Such a coalition may still form in that amount of time, but, as former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson pointed out, “a week is a long time in politics.” For Theresa May, five years is an eternity.
Moreover, there are very few risks to May and her government by calling the election now. She starts from an extremely strong position, with polls indicating an 18-20 percent lead over the Labour party. She could emerge from the contest on June 8 with a Conservative majority of over one hundred seats. The real puzzle is why Theresa May has been so reluctant to call an election until now. She argues that she is calling the election to strengthen her negotiating position vis-à-vis the European Union. It will undoubtedly do that, though Brussels will be watching closely to see what campaign promises may reveal about British negotiating strategy and red lines. However, May would have been able to lead the negotiations without this election. Indeed, a weaker position at home can force negotiating partners to recognize limitations and be more willing to compromise. With a presumably stronger majority, May will have a harder time pleading that domestic politics limits her ability to bargain.
The real issue is not the impact of this election on the Brexit negotiations, but rather the impact of the negotiations on an election in 2020. Facing the public just as the impact of Brexit becomes clear would doom Theresa May to become another Conservative prime minister whose career has been ended by Europe.