Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday won a parliamentary majority, according to Sky News and BBC television, after a snap election called over Brexit.
Results showed the Tories had won 326 of the 650 seats in the lower House of Commons, meaning they could not be beaten. Exit polls from Thursday’s vote indicated they could win 368 seats.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said the British people had given his Conservative government a “powerful new mandate” to deliver Brexit and unite the country.
Exit polls and early results suggested the Tories were on course for a historic victory in Thursday’s election, in which Johnson won his own seat in Uxbridge, west of London, with an increased majority.
Pro-EU campaigners in Britain appear to have lost their bid to persuade the public to stay in the bloc, after indications of a crushing general election victory for the ruling party.
An exit poll after voting ended on Thursday night suggested a large majority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, allowing him to push through his Brexit deal.
“With a majority, Boris Johnson will now be able to pass his Withdrawal Agreement Bill and formalise Brexit,” said Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent.
“The battle for Brexit is over.”
Final results are expected early on Friday and if confirmed, will set Britain on course to leave the EU by the end of January next year.
That will come as a blow to the smaller Liberal Democrats, who led the charge of the “remainers” against Brexit but whose message appears to have fallen flat with voters.
The exit poll suggested Johnson’s Tories would win 368 seats in the 650-seat parliament, with the main opposition Labour party on 191, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 55.
The Lib Dems, led by Jo Swinson, would win 13 seats, according to the poll — one more than they won last time round in 2017.
Experts said the party’s pledge to cancel Brexit altogether without a vote if it was elected was unpopular. Even some pro-EU supporters believed it was undemocratic.
“I do think the ‘revoke Article 50’ was a disaster,” said Simon Hix, a political scientist at the London School of Economics.
“They already had all the hardcore remainers, they weren’t going to get any more.”
He added: “She (Swinson) completely alienated Remain Tories… A lot of those reluctant remainer Tories have gone and voted for Johnson.”
Labour, which was criticised for a non-committal position on Brexit, appeared to offer no alternative, particularly with its leader Jeremy Corbyn such a divisive figure.
The party offered to renegotiate Brexit with Brussels and put their deal to a public vote alongside an option to remain.
But Corbyn said he would remain neutral, while wider criticism about his leadership, particularly over claims of anti-Semitism in Labour, appear to have been a turn-off.
Attempts at tactical voting — touted as a way of returning pro-EU parties — also appear to have failed, despite claims of a large turnout, particularly of young voters.
‘Remain’ to ‘Re-join’
Tony Travers, from the department of government at the London School of Economics, attributed the failure of “remain” to a split in the vote between opposition parties.
Instead, Johnson’s Tories had the bulk of the Leave vote, he told AFP.
“The pro-Brexit Leave vote was always a bit more determined than the Remain vote. The Leave vote just wanted to go, didn’t like the EU. That’s played itself out again tonight.
“In the end, the Leave vote is more solid and more committed.”
If the exit poll is confirmed, Johnson — who campaigned largely on a pledge to “Get Brexit Done” — is likely to issue a call for unity after more than three years of deadlock.
British politics has become increasingly polarised since the 2016 referendum that saw 52 percent vote to leave the EU.
But determined pro-Remain supporters, who are well-represented in the media and the political establishment, are likely to continue their campaign — but for Britain to rejoin the EU.
“The campaign for a second referendum is as dead as a doornail,” said Travers.
“‘Remain’ will be forced to evolve into ‘Re-Join’,” added Goodwin, but he warned that was “a much harder, longer and even generational struggle”.
Jeremy Corbyn on Friday said he would not lead Britain’s main opposition Labour party at the next general election, after predictions of a crushing defeat at nationwide polls.
“I will not lead the party in any future general election campaign,” the veteran socialist, 70, said after winning his north London seat for the 10th time.
Corbyn went into Thursday’s election offering a radical leftist programme for social change, including huge investment in public services, as well as a second referendum on Brexit.
But he was criticised for his handling of allegations of anti-Semitism within Labour and supposed sympathies with proscribed terrorist groups.
An exit poll forecast Labour would lose 52 seats to secure 191 in the 650-seat parliament — the party’s poorest result since 1935.
The forecast put Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives on 368 seats, giving the party a majority of 86.
Senior Labour figures have indicated Corbyn was responsible for the heavy losses. He admitted in an acceptance speech the results were “very disappointing”.
But he stopped short of saying he would stand down immediately, instead announcing he would lead the party during a “process of reflection” into what went wrong.
Corbyn defended his “manifesto of hope” and maintained they were “extremely popular” during the campaign. But his message had been eclipsed by Brexit.
“Brexit has so polarised and divided debate in this country, it has overridden so much of a normal political debate,” he added.
“I recognise that has contributed to the results that the Labour party has received this evening all across this country.”