Editor's Notes: Despite May’s shocker at the polls, Britain’s still leaving the EU, Borough Market re-opens and nothing will change John McDonnell

Christian May
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It is simply not possible to leave the EU but remain in the Single Market (Source: Getty)

There's a great deal of uncertainty stalking the UK following last week’s General Election.

Will Theresa May survive as PM? Why were so many people so wrong about Corbyn’s prospects? Will the Scottish independence debate disappear for a while? Will Jacob Rees-Mogg secure the chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee? And will anyone notice that the Lib Dems have gone from eight MPs to 12?

Vexing questions, all of them, but one issue more than any other is being picked apart and pulled in multiple directions by politicians and pundits: what does the result mean for Brexit?

Read more: No, austerity did not lose Theresa May her majority

The short answer is: not a lot. The result of the referendum remains the same and the position of the (current) government is still to implement the decision made by a majority of voters in June last year. And yet, the political context in which Brexit must be seen has changed a great deal.

One consequence of this is that a lot of people have got very excited at the notion of a “soft Brexit”. This means different things to different people. For example, to newly appointed Brexit minister Steve Baker it means “the softest exit consistent with actually leaving and controlling laws, money, borders and trade”. To many others, it means not actually leaving the EU at all.

Staying in the Single Market seems a popular option among the continuity Remain campaign, but advocates of such a move are being disingenuous. It is simply not possible to leave the EU but remain in the Single Market.

Read more: May to push ahead with Brexit talks despite questions over DUP deal

May knows this, which is why she committed to leaving it. EU leaders know this, too, which is why they’ve said it can’t happen. What might soften (as indeed it ought to) is the language and approach of the British government. In the words of top City wonk William Wright, Brexit “might soften round the edges” as a result of “a more collaborative approach”.

This would be welcome, but the fact is that Brexit still means Brexit.

Labour's gains came as a surprise

Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. In the days before the General Election I was telling anyone who would listen that Theresa May will secure a majority of between 40 and 60 seats.

Indeed, so confident was I that on the day of the vote itself I upped this prediction – quite publicly – to 80. I hadn’t plucked this number out of a hat (though I may as well have done) – instead I considered electoral maths and political outcomes and concluded that while the Tory manifesto was deeply flawed there was just no way that large numbers of people would swing behind Corbyn’s Labour party.

Read more: It's confirmed: Kensington falls to Labour in shock loss for the Tories

In the end, they did. There are likely to be many reasons why this happened, and no simple explanation. A lot of us are going to have to examine our assumptions about the nature of British politics. For now, one observation stands out: an 18 year-old casting a vote for the first time would have been born in 1999. They’d have been 10 at the time of the financial crisis, and will only really have been aware of Tory prime ministers. The electorate is changing, and with it so is politics.

Borough Market re-opens

Borough Market reopened earlier this week, and I hope this weekend it’s once again heaving with Londoners and tourists. In the 10 years since I came up from the Westcountry, I’ve lived in Woolwich to the East and Chiswick to the West. I’ve lived in Oval, Westminster, Aldgate and Kensington. Bermondsey – my current patch – tops the list.

Read more: Borough market reopens today: head down and show some support

You should come and explore it – beyond the delights of Borough Market, find Maltby St and Bermondsey Square. Find my favourite pub in London – The Rose, on Snowfields. It’s a hidden gem – and the food is sensational.

Nothing will change John McDonnell

The Labour party feels it has something to cheer about and while it would be too much to credit them with victory at the polls, they certainly did better than expected. So how is Marxist shadow chancellor John McDonnell celebrating?

Read more: Corbyn and McDonnell's Venezuelan Britain

By joining the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s annual garden party, of course, where he’ll raise a glass with comrades including the RMT’s Mick Cash, who said he wanted to drown Tories by spitting on them. Good to see Labour’s surge hasn’t changed you, John.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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