By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – After a host of false starts, Britain is set to leave the European Union on Jan. 31, after Thursday’s landslide win in early general election for Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party.
Johnson’s gamble on Brexit paid off, with his slogan “Let’s get Brexit done” winning over British voters as the Tories claimed an overwhelming majority to form a new government.
The new government’s priorities will be set out in the Queen’s Speech, expected to be held on Dec. 19.
The main priority for the new government will be legislating the revised Brexit deal Johnson negotiated with the EU, as the House of Commons arithmetic will now allow him to pass any law.
The new Tory government, which is backed by 44% of British voters, will also push for a trade agreement with the EU and try to finalize that deal by the end of the transition period, which will expire at the end of 2020.
How the Tories will handle other immediate problems such as austerity, the National Health Service (NHS), public transport, and crime is still to be detailed in the government program, but the way seems clearer now that they enjoy the parliamentary majority they have desperately craved since Theresa May lost in the 2017 snap election.
The party won 364 seats, as all but one of 650 constituencies declared election results by Friday noon, easily passing the 326-seat threshold needed for any party to have an outright majority in the House.
The Labour Party, the Tories’ traditional rivals, on the other hand, lost 60 seats in the worst result in an election for the party since 1935.
As the party won only 34% of the votes across the country, its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who came under immediate fire for poor results, has already signaled his resignation, saying he will not lead the party in any future election campaigns.
With 203 seats in the House, they will remain the main opposition, but they will be far from influencing any parliamentary votes, as beating the Tories’ impressive majority is not in the cards.
The deadlock around Brexit will finally be unlocked by the new Tory government, as they will be free from the need for any bargains, deals, or concessions with any other smaller parties over the law.
It is almost certain now that the country will leave the union on Jan. 31 with a transition period in place until the end of 2020.
Boris Johnson will move fast to legislate his revised withdrawal agreement, probably after the festive period of Christmas.
Any opposition to what will come in terms of Brexit will now be irrelevant, as Thursday’s vote served as an endorsement of the Tory mandate to “get Brexit done.”
The Scottish National Party (SNP), meanwhile, won 48 seats, gaining back the seats they had lost in 2017.
Besides the Tory victory, the development came as one of the most significant results of the election.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lost no time declaring on Friday that the election result gave her party a mandate to push for a second referendum on breaking free from the U.K.
“I don’t pretend that every single person who voted SNP yesterday will necessarily support independence, but there has been a strong endorsement in this election of Scotland having a choice over our future, of not having to put up with a Conservative government we didn’t vote for, and not having to accept life as a nation outside the EU,” said Sturgeon.
She has repeatedly said the country would hold a new referendum in 2020 — indyref2 — “if Scotland is dragged out from the EU against our will.”
However, such a referendum will need Westminster’s approval and Johnson, just like his predecessor Theresa May, has been rejecting the idea of indyref2.
As the SNP will certainly push for the referendum and Johnson will almost definitely refuse to give it a green light, the centuries-old Scottish push for freedom looks like it will remain a tug-of-war in British politics.
The Scots, however, can still go for a non-binding referendum for an indicative vote on their future.