On June 8, the people of Britain will vote for the party they want to run the country, representing them in Parliament and as prime minister. The reigning political party will determine how Britain exits the European Union, and a new prime minister could shake up U.S.-England relations.
After David Cameron stepped down as prime minister following the Brexit vote last summer, Theresa May took over the position as the new head of the Conservative Party. She entered the role hoping to unify the U.K. and lead it through the process of leaving the EU. When she announced her reelection campaign in April, she was ahead in the polls by double digits.
But, in the past month and half, a lot changed. The Labour Party shot up in the polls from 26% to 36%, according to Britain Elects polling averages, closing the gap to just eight points on June 4.
If you're totally lost when it comes to British politics and aren't sure why this matters for America, you aren't alone. Below we lay out everything you need to know.
Why is there an election right now?
Unlike in the U.S., the British prime minister has the power to call a "snap" election, and May did so in an attempt to increase the number of Conservatives in Parliament. With more members of her party in the government, it would be easier to pass the legislation needed in order for the U.K. to officially leave the EU.
Parliament approved the June 8 election in April.
Who's in the race?
First of all, British elections work differently than U.S. presidential elections. People in the U.K. vote for which party they want in Parliament, and the leader of whichever party wins a majority becomes the prime minister.
May is still leading the Conservative Party, (also known as the Tories), continuing her commitment to deliver what Brexit voters chose last year. She wants to significantly reduce immigration and asylum claims, while still allowing some refugees to enter the country.
The other major political party is the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. He's also committed to carrying out Brexit, but wants the U.K. to stay in the single market and the customs union, which allow EU countries to freely trade goods and services, and limits tariffs on imported goods. (However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Britain is "under illusions" if lawmakers thinks they'll keep EU benefits after exiting.) In terms of immigration, the party and Corbyn don't agree with May's plan to drastically decrease immigration.
What are the recent election developments?
For starters, Prime Minister May's Conservative Party began not focusing as heavily on Brexit, the issue it has the most support on. When the party released its platform, it was bashed for proposing that the country's current system of paying for in-home assistance for those who need it be changed to require the elderly who have more than 100,000 pounds (about $130,000) to pay for their own medical services. Critics named the policy proposal the "dementia tax."
The recent terrorist attacks in Britain have also sparked criticism of the current prime minister. May held the position of home secretary for six years before assuming her current role, and the number of armed police officers fell dramatically during that time. Following the London Bridge attacks on Saturday night, Corbyn criticized May for reducing the police force. He said in a speech, "You cannot protect the public on the cheap. The police and security services must get the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts."
However, May maintains that the government has protected police and counter-terrorism budgets, as well as given the police more power to combat terrorism.
Why does this matter for the U.S.?
The U.K. is going to leave the EU, but which party's leading the country will determine how it goes about exiting. Labour has proposed keeping certain EU trade protections, while Conservatives push for complete removal. Whichever Brexit path is taken could affect the economy of the U.K., and in turn Europe and the rest of the world. Britain does a lot of trade with the U.S., so a downturn in its economy would hurt U.S. exports.
Who leads the U.K. government will also determine U.S.-English relations, as it's currently a major international diplomacy partner. Corbyn has been critical of Prime Minister May's relationship with President Trump, claiming she's “subservient” to him when she didn't comment on the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris climate deal on June 1. Corbyn called the decision reckless, giving the impression that he would be more critical of Trump.
This is definitely an election to keep an eye on.