One issue is set to dominate the British election campaign ... Brexit

As British voters prepare to go to the polls on June 8 they face the prospect of a campaign dominated by a single issue, suggests Gavin Cordon.

Brexit - the theme which has been at the centre of political argument since David Cameron launched last year's referendum - will again be at the forefront of debate in the coming weeks.

Announcing her decision to go to the country, Theresa May made clear she would be seeking a mandate from British voters for her strategy in the forthcoming negotiations on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

While the British Prime Minister says she wants a "deep and special" relationship with the remaining 27 member states, she has also said she will pursue a clean break, pulling out of the single market and the customs union.

Labour is in the tricky position of arguing that it accepts Brexit is going to happen - despite having opposed it in the referendum - while seeking to temper what it says is a Conservative blueprint for an economically damaging "hard Brexit".

They will warn that the opposition of hardline Tory Brexiteers means the UK would be in danger of leaving without a new trade deal, with serious consequences for British businesses.

The Liberal Democrats, in contrast, will straightforwardly seek to exploit their record as the most pro-EU party among the UK parties to rebuild their electoral position by mining support from among the 48% who voted Remain in the referendum.

The SNP, meanwhile, will argue that the UK referendum vote for Brexit while Scotland voted strongly for Remain underlines their case for a second referendum on independence.

Away from Brexit, the campaign will give Mrs May a chance to put her own personal stamp on her party through issues such as her flagship programme for more grammar schools for England.

While the plan is popular among Tory traditionalists it is also highly controversial, even within the Conservative ranks - something the opposition will be keen to exploit.

Labour can be expected to focus on the consequences of Conservative austerity policies, which they will argue have left a stalled economy with no end in sight.

The party has unveiled a series of populist policies, including free school meals for primary school pupils, extra help for carers paid for by imposing VAT on private school fees and reversing cuts to inheritance tax which they will be keen to promote.

However, the party will be braced for a sustained attack from the Conservatives over their fitness for government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories will almost certainly seek to highlight the long record of support for left wing causes by Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, including their reported backing for the IRA in the 1980s and 1990s.

While general elections are rarely decided on foreign policy issues, the campaign will take place against a backdrop of heightened international uncertainty over Syria and North Korea.

After Bashar Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people and tensions over Kim Jong Un's nuclear programme, events overseas could yet play a role in determining who enters No 10 on June 9.

* Gavin Cordon is the Press Association's Whitehall Editor

READ NEXT: Theresa May has called a snap election and placed the largest bet of her career

Related Articles

British police ’formally considering’ allegations Tories broke law due to call centre use

UK government's 'shabby deal' with DUP branded a threat to Good Friday Agreement

Everything you need to know about the Conservative-DUP deal

Theresa May has bought herself time but she remains on probation, warns Tory MP

More in this Section

DUP spit in soup of well-choreographed meal


Breaking Stories

Australian police appealing for information on missing Irish man Craig Lambe

Irish workers could be forced to pay 10% of wages in new pension scheme

40% reduction in heart attack deaths since 2007 - report

Central Bank warns households about taking on new debt, 10 years on from financial crisis

Lifestyle

No wee feat: Daniel back in the charts with new album this Christmas

The League Of Gentlemen sketch troupe back on TV screens after 15 years

Get ready for the Jedi in latest Star Wars instalment

A heavy burden for such young shoulders caring for parents this Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner