Exit polls predict landslide victory for pro-Brexit party and worst defeat for Labour since 1935
Britain’s Conservative Party is set to emerge victorious in the country’s snap election, all but ensuring the country’s exit from the European Union on Jan. 31.
Led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Tory victory—by all indications a landslide with Conservatives tipped to secure 368 seats in the 650-seat parliament—marks a failure of opponents of Brexit to convince the British public that leaving the European bloc would be a costly mistake.
“I hope you enjoy a celebration tonight,” Johnson, the former mayor of London, told supporters in an email. “With any luck, tomorrow we’ll be getting to work,” news agency Reuters reported him as adding.
With official polling results backing the initial estimates, Johnson is expected to swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the E.U. to allow the U.K. to leave the bloc on Jan. 31—10 months of increasingly contentious debates and protests later than initially planned. Observers have warned the task will prove daunting, with the new government having to negotiate new international trade deals, while attempting to maintain London’s position as a top global financial capital.
The Conservative victory, and its perceived promise of near-term stability, led to a boost for the pound sterling, which hit a 19-month high versus the dollar.
Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has been forecast to win 191 seats, the worst result for the party since 1935.
But while the election is a victory for Johnson’s stance on Brexit, the battle is far from over. After the Jan. 31 exit, the U.K. would enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 E.U. states. This transition can last till December 2022 under current rules—though the Conservatives have vowed not to extend it beyond the end of 2020.
Labour, if it is defeated by the margins shown in exit polls, now faces a sobering future over whether to continue backing a socialist agenda or ceding to more moderate forces. “This is obviously a very disappointing night for the Labour Party with the result that we’ve got,” AFP reported Corbyn as saying after being re-elected in his own north London electoral seat. He said he would not lead the party in any future elections. Several Labour candidates said his leadership had played a major role in the defeat.
The Liberal Democrats were forecast to win 13 seats, the exit poll said. The Brexit Party was not predicted to win any. The Scottish National Party, which strongly opposes Brexit, would win 55 of the 59 seats in Scotland, according to the poll, potentially allowing it to demand a second independence vote, after secession was rejected by 55% to 45% in 2014.
“Boris Johnson has to respect that the Scottish government in Edinburgh already has a mandate for a referendum on Scottish independence in a change of circumstances,” said SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.