U.K. Election: Johnson's Conservatives Win Majority; Corbyn to Step Down

Johnson's Conservatives sweep the snap election, marking biggest win for the party since the 80s – Johnson says U.K. will leave EU on January 31

BBC Television Centre is illuminated with the results forecast for Britain's general election in London, Britain, December 12, 2019.
REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding election victory on Friday that will allow him to take Britain out of the European Union in matter of weeks.

For Johnson, whose 20-week tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in parliament and stark division on the streets over Britain's tortuous departure from the European Union, victory in Thursday's contest was vindication.

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Johnson said Britain would leave the European Union on January 31 after his sweeping election win.

"We will get Brexit done on time by the 31st of January, no ifs, no buts, no maybes," Johnson told cheering supporters on Friday.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would not lead the party into the next election after admitting it had been a "very disappointing night."

On Friday, however, he said he did not want to go quickly and was prepared to remain leader until the party chooses a successor next year.

"I called for, last night, a period of reflection in the party and obviously the ruling body of the party, our National Executive, will decide what process we follow then for the election of a successor to me," he told reporters.

"I'm quite prepared and obviously elected to do so, to lead the party until that takes place," he added.

As Labour faces major losses, Corbyn says he will not lead party in future election

After all votes were counted, the final results put the Conservatives at 365 seats, Labour at 203, Scotland's SNP at 48, and the Liberal Democrats at 11. 

Johnson won an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament in the biggest Conservative national election win since Margaret Thatcher's 1987 triumph. 

Labour, with its 203 seats, suffered the worst election loss since 1935, after offering voters a second referendum and the most radical socialist government in generations. 

A landslide Conservative win marks the ultimate failure of opponents of Britain's departure from the European Union who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.

"I think this will turn out to be a historic election that gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people," Johnson said after winning his seat of Uxbridge.

He said the Conservatives appeared to have won "a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done."

In light of the results, the pound surged more than 2 per cent on Thursday. 

U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the latter's election win and said that Britain and the United States will now be free 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 E.U. Celebrate Boris," Trump said in a tweet early on Friday.

Johnson's bet on a snap election has paid off, meaning he will swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the EU so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 - 10 months later than initially planned.

Brexit far from over

After nearly four years of Brexit debate that has riven the United Kingdom, deadlocked parliament and shocked allies, a majority will allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973.

But Brexit is far from over.

He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in just 11 months, while also negotiating another trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain's economy. After Jan. 31, Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 EU states.

This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

A big majority may give him the political security to extend the trade talks beyond 2020 because he could overrule the Brexit hardliner European Research Group (ERG) faction in the party.

"The bigger the Tory majority of course the less influence over this the ERG and Eurosceptics will have," said Brexit party leader Nigel Farage. "It will be called Brexit but it won't really be."

'Get Brexit done'

Johnson called the first Christmas election since 1923 to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain's political system after more than three years of crisis over Brexit.

The face of the victorious "Leave" campaign in the 2016 referendum, Johnson fought the election under the slogan of "Get Brexit Done", promising to end the deadlock and spend more on health, education and the police.

He was helped early in the election by Farage's Brexit Party which stood down hundreds of candidates to prevent the pro-Brexit vote from being split. Early results showed the Brexit Party had poached a significant number of voters from Labour.

While Brexit framed the election, the slow-motion exit from the EU has variously fatigued, enthused and enraged voters while eroding loyalties to the two major parties.

Results showed Johnson's strategy had successfully breached Labour's so-called "Red Wall" of seats across the Brexit-supporting areas of the Midlands and northern England where he cast his political foes as the out-of-touch enemies of Brexit.

The Conservatives took Sedgefield, once held by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour's most successful leader.

Labour defeat

A defeated Labour now faces a civil war between the socialists who control it and more moderate factions which will demand power.
"This is obviously a very disappointing night for the Labour Party with the result that we've got," Corbyn said after being re-elected in his own north London electoral seat. He said he would not lead the party in any future elections.

Weary Labour candidates said his leadership had played a major role in the defeat.

Ruth Smeeth, who said she also expected to lose her seat in Stoke-on-Trent, laid the blame firmly at Corbyn's door. "He should have gone many, many, many months ago," she said.

The Liberal Democrats won a mere 11 seats with Jo Swinson, the party leader, losing her seat to the Scottish National Party.

The Brexit Party did not win any seats.

The Scottish National Party, which strongly opposes Brexit, won 48 seats, potentially setting the scene for it to demand a second independence vote, after secession was rejected by 55 per cent to 45 per cent in 2014.

Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Johnson did not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the EU.

"We don't want Brexit," Sturgeon said. "Boris Johnson may have a mandate to take England out of the European Union, he emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union."