THE BRITISH people gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party a very clear mandate to “get Brexit done.” The Conservatives will now have a big majority in Parliament and the Brexit bill will sail through it ensuring Britain will leave the EU on January 31.
This big majority, it is said, would allow Johnson the comfort to carry on negotiating a trade agreement with the EU beyond the end of 2020, which had originally been set as the deadline for cutting links with the Union, with or without a deal. He will no longer be held to ransom by the no-deal Brexiteers of his party and with the election out of the way, he could take a more pragmatic approach to the negotiations on the future relationship with the EU, which nobody believes could be completed in 11 months.
The Labour Party, meanwhile, suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1935, and although the tendency is to blame its leader Jeremy Corbyn, an old-school Marxist intent on establishing a socialist state through high taxes, who was demonized by the Tory press, this ignored the Brexit factor. Many traditional Labour voters in the Labour heartlands in the north of England and the Midlands were staunch Brexiteers that did not approve of their party’s wishy-washy stance on leaving the EU, which included a second referendum.
Interestingly, as professor of politics, Sir John Curtice, pointed out 47 per cent of voters backed the parties – the Conservatives and the Brexit Party – that supported proceeding with Brexit without a second referendum, even if this translated into a big majority for the Tories because of the electoral system. This would suggest the country remains deeply divided over leaving the EU and it will be fascinating to see how Johnson will pursue his stated objective of uniting the country. Perhaps, he will eventually opt to keep Britain in the customs union, in order to leave by the end of 2020 and, thus, also resolve the issue of the border in the Irish Sea.
Johnson, who is not a Brexit ideologue like Nigel Farage or the ERG members, has secured a new term with a big majority and is in a position to pursue a soft Brexit if he so chooses. After all, his promise was to “get Brexit done” but he never went into the details about the type of Brexit he will eventually deliver. Consistency is not one of his qualities so it remains to be seen how he will interpret the mandate to leave the EU, he received from less than 50 per cent of the voters.