The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats unexpectedly gained a U.K. parliamentary seat in a by-election Thursday, a result that may further complicate Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to begin the process of leaving the European Union early next year.
Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney won the seat of Richmond Park, a southwest London district that overwhelmingly backed staying in the EU in June’s referendum, according to the BBC. The party, which held the seat until 2010, put Brexit at the heart of the contest, calling for a second referendum on the exit terms achieved by May and threatening to vote in parliament against her plan to trigger the two-year countdown to leaving by the end of March.
Pro-Brexit former Conservative lawmaker Zac Goldsmith had been clear favorite with bookmakers to retain the district. He ran as an independent after quitting his seat in October and triggering the contest to protest the decision by May’s government to build a third runway at nearby Heathrow Airport. The constituency lies directly under the Heathrow flight path.
May and her fellow Conservative ministers have come under attack from opposition parties for failing to give details of the government’s demands for its post-Brexit deal. A YouGov Plc poll conducted in the middle of last month found only 18 percent of respondents saying the government is doing a good job in negotiating the divorce from the EU.
For us pro-Europeans this is a glimmer of good news amidst the doom and confusion of the last few months. It’s also a surprising defeat for Zac Goldsmith.