Boris Johnson has just given the Conservative party its largest victory in over thirty years. With all the 650 seats declared, the Conservatives secured 365 seats representing a gain of 47. For Labour, it was the worst performance since 1935. Jeremy Corbyn has already declared that he will not lead the Labour Party into another election and will step down as soon as his replacement is found.
The significant majority now gives Johnson mandate to lead the UK for a full year term of five years. However, his plan to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act means he may not lead the UK into another election in 2024. Nevertheless, the huge majority now gives him the best opportunity to deliver all his promises.
There are already some disquiets from certain quarters that he may misuse his huge majority by disregarding divergent views, and pushing Brexit through parliament on his terms.
“With such a big majority none of the contentions of the past should block Johnson’s path. But expect some amendments, most likely on Northern Ireland trade and the transition period extension decision,” said The Guardian.
Tony Blair the former British Prime Minister had warned about this during the election campaigns urging people to vote tactically for a hung parliament so that the winner of the election would have no majority to govern without considering the interests of others. He feared that Boris had no chance of securing a trade deal with the EU within a year and that a no-deal Brexit is probable.
Similar fears were expressed by Michel Barnier the EU Chief Negotiator who stated that the future trade talks would be difficult and demanding. “Boris’s unpredictability and his erratic behaviour makes it even more likely that he may crush the UK out of the EU without a trade deal if he feels negotiations are taking too long, impeding him from fulfilling his election mantra “Get Brexit Done”.
However, he can still use his resounding victory to secure a Brexit deal by the January 31 deadline.
So what happens next now ?
The new Conservative government is expected to meet the Queen on 17 December, followed by the Queen’s speech on 19 December. The legislation needed for the withdrawal agreement would then be submitted to parliament most probably by 20 December or 23 December for a second reading.
The time table is tight leaving Johnson with only around 16 days to get his withdrawal agreement bill through parliament.
“It will not be fun doing a bill of this kind complexity in a month but is doable,” Brigid Fowler the senior researcher at the Hansard Society told the Guardian. Johnson’s director of legislative affairs had earlier on stated that that passing Brexit legislation through parliament would take 37 days.
To hurry up the process, parliament has been asked to sit on Saturday before Christmas and the House of Lords between Christmas and new year.
Apart from Brexit, another challenge will be the issue of Scottish independence. The performance of the Scottish National Party SNP has renewed, refreshed and strengthened the calls for a second referendum in Scotland.
The party won 47 out of 59 seats, 11 more than what they achieved in 2017. “Westminster has ignored people in Scotland for three years. Last night the people of Scotland said enough. It is time for Boris Johnson to start listening, “said Nicola Sturgeon First Minister of Scotland and the leader of SNP.
“I don’t pretend that every single person who voted SNP yesterday will necessarily support independence, but there has been a strong endorsement in this election of Scotland having a choice over our future; of not having to put up with a Conservative government we didn’t vote for and not having to accept life as a nation outside the EU,”
She had hoped to formally put out the proposal for a second referendum to the UK government before Christmas but held back. Instead, she said, “I have just won an election on the strength of the argument that it’s Scotland’s right to choose. It’s up to the Tories to decide what their Plan B is when my Plan A has just been given a ringing endorsement.”
However in a telephone call with Sturgeon just after returning to Downing Street as Prime Minister, Johnson reiterated that the results of the 2014 referendum were “decisive and should be respected,” This effectively rules out the possibility of a second referendum for Scotland.
Despite Johnson’s intransigence, the calls are getting louder with an online petition demanding independence for Scotland reaching 350,000 signatures.
When Scotland independence referendum was held in 2014, many Scottish voted to stay in the UK. By then the UK had not voted to leave the EU in 2016. Since then, the situation has changed tremendously.
Many Scottish citizens are not happy with Brexit and in case they are given a chance to vote in a second independence referendum, the results would likely be catastrophic leading to the breaking up of the UK.
Perhaps that explains why Johnson is afraid to take a risk. His spokesman said, “The Prime Minister made clear how he remained opposed to a second independence referendum, standing with the majority of people in Scotland who do not want to return to division and uncertainty.”
More than ever the UK needs to take special steps to recover from deep rifts caused by Brexit and a highly contested election. Johnson has already reached out to Remainers and supporters of other parties.
In his first speech as Prime Minister he said, he would use his newfound parliamentary authority to bring the country together and level up opportunities. “The UK deserves a break from politics and a permanent break from talking about Brexit. I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” he said.
He told Brexit Remainers, “We in this One Nation Conservative government will never ignore your good and positive feelings of warmth and sympathy towards the other nations of Europe.”
Despite his reconciliatory tone, demonstrators took to the streets of London last night to protest his victory.