UK destined for Brexit as Johnson wins big

UK destined for Brexit as Johnson wins big

UK elex
In this two photo combo image, Britain's Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson (left) and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outside their polling stations. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Thanassis Stavrakis)

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday (Dec 13) that his government have won a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.

Johnson's Conservative Party gained a resounding victory in Britain's election after voters backed his bid to deliver Brexit on Jan 31, the country's most significant geopolitical move in 70 years.

Speaking after winning his seat of Uxbridge, Johnson said the Conservative government has been given a "powerful mandate" to close the Brexit deal and to "unite this country and take it forward.

Voting, Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses with his dog Dilyn as he leaves from a Polling Station, after casting his ballot paper and voting, in central London on Dec 12, 2019, as Britain holds a general election. (Photo: AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

For Johnson, whose brief tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in parliament and stark division on the streets over Britain's tortuous departure from the European Union, the victory in Thursday's contest is vindication.

Educated at the country's most elite school and recognisable by his bombastic style, the 55-year-old must not only deliver Brexit but also convince Britons that the contentious divorce, which would lead to lengthy trade talks, is worth it.

A landslide Conservative win marked the ultimate failure of opponents of Brexit who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.

Johnson's bet on a snap election has paid off, meaning he will swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the EU so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan 31 - 10 months later than initially planned.

But nearly half a century after joining what has become the world's largest trading bloc, Johnson faces the daunting challenge of striking new international trade deals, preserving London's position as a top global financial capital and keeping the United Kingdom together.

EU 'READY' FOR NEXT ROUND OF BREXIT

EU leaders said Friday they were ready for the next phase of Brexit.

The Europeans had widely expressed hope for a convincing victory in the British vote to achieve clarity in a crisis that has rocked Brussels since the referendum to leave the bloc in June 2016.

"My point is very clear: We are ready. We have decided what are our priorities," said EU President Charles Michel as he arrived to an EU summit where leaders will discuss the aftermath of the UK vote and Britain's planned departure.

"I hope we will have loyal negotiations, good negotiations."

EU leaders summit in Brussels
EEuropean Council President Charles Michel arrives for the second day of the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium Dec 13, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman)

The former Belgian prime minister hoped for "an early ratification by the British parliament" of the exit agreement negotiated between London and the EU, "so that we can start the negotiations on the next phase calmly, quietly but with great determination".

The EU leaders will have a Brexit text ready on Friday at the end of their two-day summit, which was dominated on Thursday by climate talks.

According to the latest draft, seen by AFP, the 27 other EU leaders will call for "as close as possible a future relationship with the UK" while warning that it "will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field".

And they will ask the European Commission to submit "a draft comprehensive mandate for a future relationship with the UK immediately after its withdrawal".

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will direct trade negotiations, which the leaders will follow closely "and provide further guidance as necessary, fully consistent with the EU's best interest".

Johnson has until Jul 1 to ask for a trade talk extension.

If he refuses to extend the negotiation period, a no-deal Brexit will loom at the end of 2020, with Britain in danger of an abrupt cut in trade ties with Europe, endangering its economy.

Sterling surged more than 2 per cent against the dollar and the euro on Thursday as traders piled into the pound. By 10.25pm GMT, the pound had rocketed as much as 2.5 per cent to US$1.3510 GBP=D3 - its biggest one day gain since January 2017.

Boris in kitchen
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares a pie at the Red Olive catering company while on the campaign trail, in Derby, England. (Photo: AP/Ben Stansall)

BREXIT FAR FROM OVER

The Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, had offered a second referendum and the prospect of the most radical socialist government in British history.

John McDonnell, the second most powerful man in the Labour Party, said the election had been dominated by Brexit which has divided the country since 2016.

"What's clearly come through I think in these results is that this was the Brexit election," he said. 

"We were hoping a wider range of issues would cut though and have a debate, I don't think that has been the case."

A majority will now allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973. But Brexit is far from over - he faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in just 11 months.

The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s US$2.7 trillion economy while Brexit could yet threaten the unity of the 312-year-old United Kingdom.

After Jan 31, Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 EU states.

This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

A large majority would give him the political security to extend the trade talks beyond 2020 because he could overrule the Brexit hardliner European Research Group (ERG) faction inside the party.

"The bigger the Tory majority of course the less influence over this the ERG and Eurosceptics will have," said Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party. "It will be called Brexit but it won't really be."

Source: Agencies/de/zl/nr

Bookmark