LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday hailed a political “earthquake” after securing a sweeping election win, which clears the way for Britain to finally leave the European Union (EU) next month after years of political deadlock.
With almost all results declared for the 650-seat Parliament, Johnson’s Conservative party had secured 362 seats – its biggest majority since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
By contrast the main opposition Labour party endured a terrible night, losing 59 seats to 203, forcing leader Jeremy Corbyn to announce plans for his departure.
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats announced they would replaced Jo Swinson as leader after she lost her seat in western Scotland to the Scottish National Party (SNP). The pound had risen late Thursday on hopes that Johnson will now deliver his promise to “Get Brexit Done” after years of uncertainty over Britain’s future.
With a large majority of MPs, he will be able to get the divorce deal he struck with Brussels through parliament in time to meet the next Brexit deadline of January 31.
Ratifying the deal would formalise the end of almost five decades of EU-United Kingdom (UK) integration, although both sides still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement.
France’s European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin was the first EU politician to welcome the indications of “a clear majority, something that has been missing in the UK for several years”.
It signals a personal victory for Johnson, a former London mayor and foreign minister who helped lead the Brexit campaign to victory in the 2016 EU referendum.
United States (US) President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations on a “great win”, and said London and Washington would be able to strike a “massive new trade deal” after Brexit.
“This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU. Celebrate Boris!” he said.
The Conservatives had been ahead in opinion polls for weeks but the scale of their victory, after a wet and windy winter election, was unexpected.
The party took a string of traditionally Labour seats that had not voted Tory for decades, but many of which had backed “Leave” in 2016.