LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding election victory on Friday that will allow him to end three years of political paralysis and take Britain out of the European Union within weeks.
The Brexit divorce represents Britain’s biggest political and economic gamble since World War Two, cutting the world’s fifth largest economy adrift from the vast trading bloc and testing the integrity of the United Kingdom.
For Johnson, who had faced gridlock in parliament and focused his campaign on a vow to “Get Brexit Done”, victory was a vindication.
“The people of this country have given us tonight a huge great stonking mandate,” he told activists at Conservative Party headquarters, according to a recording published by Buzzfeed.
“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.”
Nearly half a century after Britain joined the EU, Johnson faces the challenge of striking new international trade deals, preserving London’s position as a top global financial capital and keeping the United Kingdom together.
That last goal was looking more challenging as the election results rolled in, with Scotland voting for a nationalist party that wants an independence referendum, and Irish nationalists performing strongly in Northern Ireland.
In a political earthquake in England, the Conservatives won large numbers of seats in the opposition Labour Party’s so-called Red Wall, traditional working class heartlands once hostile to Johnson’s party.
Brexit, which has shattered old party loyalties and divided Britain along new fault lines, was the cause of the shift. In the Red Wall, a majority of voters favoured leaving the European Union and rejected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguous stance on the issue.