Despite poll win, challenges remain for Johnson - GulfToday

Despite poll win, challenges remain for Johnson


Boris Johnson

If there is one stark reality facing Britain after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election landslide, it is that there would be no second referendum and divorce from the European Union (EU) is inevitable.

Three years of uncertainty since the country decided to leave the EU is coming to an end.

Johnson has been relentlessly pursuing the goal of exiting the EU ever since he put himself forward as the face of the victorious “Leave” campaign in a 2016 referendum.

With the Conservatives set to win their largest parliamentary majority since 1987, he will be able to push his divorce deal through parliament.

Nonetheless, despite the mighty election victory, Johnson has major challenges lined up.

The results in Scotland and Northern Ireland have hinted at battles ahead in trying to keep the United Kingdom together.

Strong performances by Scottish and Irish nationalists in Thursday’s snap vote will increase concerns about independence movements gaining momentum north of England’s border and in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 48 seats, almost matching its performance in the 2015 election and setting up a showdown between Johnson and its combative leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Sturgeon has already stated that it had been an “exceptionally good night” for her party, leaving Scotland and the rest of Britain on “divergent paths”.

In her own words: “I accept that Boris Johnson after this election has a mandate to take England out of the European Union, but he does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the EU. I have a mandate, a renewed, refreshed, strengthened mandate, to offer people in Scotland the choice of a different future.”

She is expected to push for another independence referendum after losing a 2014 vote.

Johnson is also facing the serious but less urgent threat of keeping Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom, in the wake of demands by nationalists for a united Ireland.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against Britain’s departure from the EU in the shock 2016 referendum.

And Brexit has raised concerns that a possible “hard border” with EU-member Ireland to the south could lead to a return to the tensions and sectarian violence of the past.

With results in from all but one of the 650 parliamentary seats, the Conservatives had won 364, their biggest election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.

Labour, led since 2015 by the veteran socialist Corbyn, had won just 203 seats, the party’s worst result since 1935.

Corbyn’s offer of nationalisations and big state spending failed to win over voters, while his equivocal position on Brexit left many angry and confused, especially in Red Wall areas where large majorities had voted for Brexit in 2016.

The party now faces a brutal battle between Corbyn’s socialist followers and his centrist critics.

On the economic front, with Britain’s exit from the EU on Jan.31 now a foregone conclusion, the question for investors is whether Johnson will stick to his campaign promise not to delay the end-of-2020 deadline for a new EU trade deal.

That deadline is widely seen as tough to meet, given the scale of issues to be resolved.

In the short term, the victory for the Conservative Party removes a major brake on growth: the deadlock in parliament over how, or whether, to proceed with Brexit.

Johnson had unambiguously stated in a victory speech that Britain would leave the EU on Jan.31 “no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”

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