For Johnson, the Brexit-focused campaign “Get Brexit Done” paid off in the end.
“We will get Brexit done on time by the 31st of January, no ifs, no buts, no maybes,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told cheering supporters on Friday.
Johnson’s Conservative Party won a landslide victory that will allow him to clear the way for Britain to leave the European Union within weeks after three years of political paralysis.
“The people of this country have given us tonight a huge great stonking mandate,” he said at Conservative Party headquarters.
“They’ve given us this mandate of course because they want us to do one thing, which you all know, they want us to get Brexit done.”
The Brexit divorce marks Britain’s biggest political and economic gamble since World War II, changing the direction of the world’s fifth-largest economy away from the vast trading bloc.
But the Conservatives’ clear win is the death knell for opponents of Brexit, who tried to employ complex legislative manoeuvres to take the move off the table, but could not transform massive anti-Brexit sentiment into a concrete political strategy.
As all the results were announced for the 650-seat parliament, Johnson’s Conservative Party won 362 seats, its biggest election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.
By contrast, the opposition Labour Party won just 203 seats, the party’s worst showing since 1935, forcing its leader Jeremy Corbyn to announce his departure.
For Johnson, his election victory came through his Brexit-focused campaign “Get Brexit Done”, which promised to end the deadlock.
His strategy clearly held appeal for British voters. The Conservatives won large numbers of seats even in working-class heartlands, traditional strongholds of the Labour Party.
On the other hand, Corbyn built his campaign on a structural change in the economy, including re-nationalising some key industries and increased spending on the National Health Service, a campaign that failed to woo traditional voters.
Speaking before the results announced, Corbyn defended his “manifesto of hope” but said: “Brexit has so popularised and divided debate in this country.”
He added: “It has overridden so much of a normal political debate.”
Although the majority has given a green light to Johnson to lead the country out of the EU that Britain joined in 1973, Brexit is still far from over.
Johnson promised to put his Brexit plan to parliament before the Christmas break, though it will not likely be ratified until January.
After January, Britain will enter a transition period that ends in December 2020, during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the 27 EU members.
However, with an absolute majority, Johnson could extend that time and choose to negotiate a closer trade deal rather than a sharp exit.
If Johnson refuses to extend this period, as he promised from the beginning, a limited trade deal like a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU could be likely.