Britain votes in ‘Brexit election’ - GulfToday

Britain votes in ‘Brexit election’

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Ballots are photographed inside a polling station on general election day in London. Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Britain went to the polls on Thursday to determine the immediate future of Brexit, in a vote described as the most important in a generation.

UK election campaign enters final rounds with Brexit on the line

More than 4,000 polling venues across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including a windmill, several pubs, a hair salon and a chip shop, opened their doors for a day of voting that ends at 2200 GMT.

All eyes will be on the winter weather, with forecasts of near-freezing temperatures, rain and even snow that could affect turn-out in the first December election in nearly a century.

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A man walks past a sign outside a polling station on general election day in London on Thursday. Reuters

Up for grabs are all 650 seats in the British parliament, which has been deadlocked since the 2016 referendum on EU membership that saw a majority vote to leave.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took over from Theresa May in July after she was unable to get parliament to approve her EU divorce deal, is hoping to secure both a mandate and a majority.

Johnson's Conservatives need just nine more seats for a majority, which would allow him to push through his own Brexit deal with Brussels and take Britain out of the bloc by the end of January.

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Britain's PM Boris Johnson gestures during a final general election campaign event in London. Reuters

Johnson said Thursday was a chance to end more than three years of political deadlock and uncertainty.

"Just imagine how wonderful it will be to settle down to a turkey dinner this Christmas with Brexit decided," he said in a final message to voters.

"This election is our chance to end the gridlock but the result is on a knife-edge," he said.

Crossroads

Looking to stop Johnson is the main opposition Labour party.

Victory would make its 70-year-old leader Jeremy Corbyn the first Labour prime minister since Gordon Brown in 2010 -- and the oldest first-time premier since Viscount Palmerston in 1855.

Corbyn is proposing to renegotiate softer exit terms with Brussels within three months and put them to a new referendum, alongside an option to remain in the 27-member bloc, after a three-month campaign.

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Jeremy Corbyn waves during a final general election campaign event in London. Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A franchise extension would enable millions of EU nationals in Britain to vote in the referendum.

Corbyn said Britain was at a crossroads and the election was "truly historic".

"Vote for hope. Vote for real change," he said.

The election features 3,321 candidates -- from 18-year-olds to octogenarians -- in constituencies covering windswept Shetland off northeast Scotland, to the Isles of Scilly more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometres) away off Cornwall, in southwest England.

The first indication of the overall result will come in an exit poll at 2200 GMT. The first actual result is due from around 2300 GMT. The remainder will trickle in overnight.

Johnson has hammered home his message to "Get Brexit Done" against a backdrop of voter fatigue at the election -- the third in less than five years -- and the tortuous Brexit process.

Agence France-Presse