May’s bid for stronger Brexit hand at stake

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces the voters on Thursday in an election she called to strengthen her hand in looming Brexit talks, with her personal authority at stake after a campaign that saw her lead in opinion polls contract.
Voting began at 0600 GMT amid tight security nationwide after two Islamist attacks killed 30 people in Manchester and London in less than two weeks, thrusting the issue of how to counter violent extremism to the top of the agenda in the closing stages of the campaign.
A final flurry of opinion polls gave May’s Conservatives a lead ranging between five and 12 percentage points over the main opposition Labour Party, suggesting she would increase her majority – but not win the landslide foreseen when she called the election seven weeks ago.
The polls supported the British pound, which held firm at $1.2957, near its highest levels in two weeks. The pound gained as much as 4 percent after May called a snap election seven weeks ago, as polls had initially suggested a landslide win for her Conservative party.
Yet traders are cautious given the Brexit shock last year and the fact that her once-commanding lead over the Labour Party and its veteran hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn has been narrowing through the campaign period.
Voting ends at 2100 GMT. There will be an exit poll as soon as voting finishes. The first handful of seat results are expected to be announced by 2300 GMT, with the vast majority of the 650 constituencies due to announce results between 0200 GMT and 0500 GMT on Friday morning.
Both main parties were on the defensive after Saturday’s van and knife attack in the heart of London. May faced questions over cuts in the number of police officers during her six years as interior minister and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn drew criticism for, among other things, voting against some counter-terrorism legislation.
British police investigating the London attacks said they had arrested three more suspects late on Wednesday as footage of the dramatic moment officers shot dead the assailants appeared online.
Two of the men, aged 27 and 29, were held on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism while the third was detained over suspected drugs offences.
In the final hours of campaigning, both leaders returned to their core campaign messages.
“If we get Brexit right, we can build a Britain that is more prosperous and more secure, a Britain in which prosperity and opportunity is shared by all,” May said in a last appeal to voters to trust her to “knuckle down and get the job done”. Reuters