LONDON – The two parties that could form Britain’s next government held hours of closed-door talks Sunday without reaching a power-sharing deal, and there are fears that the political uncertainty could stoke market jitters when trading reopens today.
Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have a “mountain to climb” on issues including electoral reform, a senior member of the Liberal Democrats said. The Liberal Democrats want Britain to shed a system that gave them just 9 percent of the seats in Parliament after they won 23 percent of the popular vote, but if Conservatives give in it could leave them at the smaller party’s mercy in future elections.
The divide could offer an opening for Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party to stay in power through a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and some smaller parties.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg met with Conservative leader David Cameron on Sunday night, after meeting Brown during the afternoon for what a Liberal Democrat party spokesman said was an “amicable discussion.”
A deal must be brokered soon to calm financial market anxieties about Britain’s economic stability.
“We’re very conscious of the need to provide the country with a new stable and legitimate government as soon as possible,” Conservative foreign affairs spokesman William Hague told reporters before disappearing into London’s Cabinet Office for negotiations with senior Liberal Democrats.
After six hours of negotiations, Hague emerged to announce that the two parties agreed that they should focus on economic stability and reducing the ballooning budget deficit.
The prospect of days of political horse-trading has fueled anxiety in financial markets already unsettled by the Greek debt crisis.