Johnson claims Brexit mandate with new conservative majority
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Friday to heal Britain’s divisions over Brexit after his gamble on early elections rewarded him with a commanding majority in Parliament and a new mandate to take his country out of the European Union at the end of January.
Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” and widespread unease with the leadership style and socialist policies of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn combined to give the ruling Conservative Party 365 seats in the House of Commons, its best performance since party icon Margaret Thatcher’s last victory in 1987. Corbyn’s Labour Party slumped to 203 seats, 59 fewer than it won two years ago, vote totals showed Friday.
The results offer Johnson fresh momentum to push his EU withdrawal agreement through Parliament. Since taking office in July, he had led a minority government. After the House of Commons stalled his Brexit deal at the end of October, he called the election two years ahead of schedule in hopes of winning a clear majority.
“I will put an end to all that nonsense, and we will get Brexit done on time by the January 31 – no ifs, no buts, no maybes,” he said as supporters cheered.
Johnson also offered an olive branch to Britons who want to remain in the EU, saying he will respect their “warm feelings” and build a “new partnership” with the bloc as “friends and sovereign equals.”
Speaking Friday outside 10 Downing Street, he pledged to end acrimony over Brexit and urged the country to “let the healing begin.” He said he would work to repay voters’ trust.
Key leaders in Europe, signaled that they, too, were willing to start anew. French President Emmanuel Macron said it was time to build a common future.
“I also want to tell our British friends and allies something very simple: By this general election, you have confirmed the choice made more than three years ago, but you are not leaving Europe,” he said. “Our history, our geography, our values tie us beyond the twists and turns, difficulties or disappointments.”
U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Johnson on “a tremendous victory,” and said he looked forward to a new trade deal with Britain.
“It’s going to be a great thing for the United States also, because it means a lot of trade, a tremendous amount of trade,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “They want to do business with us so badly.”
The scale of Johnson’s success marked a stinging defeat for Corbyn, who had promised to lead Labour to victory with the “biggest people-powered campaign our country has ever seen.”
Instead, voters rejected his attempt to bridge divisions over Brexit by promising a second referendum on any deal with the EU. The vote also turned away the rest of the party’s agenda, which included promises to raise taxes on the rich, increase social spending and nationalize industries such as water delivery, railroads and the Royal Mail.
Corbyn, who spent his entire career as a backbench gadfly until unexpectedly winning a party leadership election in 2015, was criticized for silencing critics within the party and failing to root out anti-Semitism among his supporters.