UK election: Conservatives win landslide, triggering path to Brexit

LONDON, U.K. (ABC News) – The United Kingdom has cleared the path to leave the European Union early next year after Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a huge victory in the country’s closely watched general election.

Britain went to the polls for the third time in five years Thursday to determine who the public wants to resolve the stalemate over Brexit.

While early polling suggested the Conservatives would win a narrow majority, in the end, the result was decisive.

With just one seat left to be declared, the Conservative Party won 364 seats, giving them a majority in Parliament of 78 — the largest majority they have secured since 1987, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

The opposition Labour Party, meanwhile, only won 203 seats — their worst electoral performance since 1935.

The victory is a clear vindication for Brexit champion Johnson, who will remain as prime minister. The election will have significant implications for Brexit, U.S.-U.K. relations and the issue of Scottish independence.

The result indicates Johnson’s Conservatives will have enough lawmakers to pass through his Brexit deal, which would have the country leave the EU by Jan. 31, 2020.

After that, a transition period would follow in which his government seeks to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU.

President Donald Trump heaped praise on Johnson after it became clear the Conservatives had won a majority, talking up the prospect of a free trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.

“Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN!” Trump tweeted. “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!”

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party, which already held the majority of seats in that country, swept the board by winning 48 seats. Leader Nicola Sturgeon described the results as a “clear message” that the nation should have a second referendum on becoming independent from the U.K., as they ran on a platform of staying in the EU. In 2014, Scotland voted to stay in the U.K. by a margin of 55 to 45%.

The socialist leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, announced he would not be leading the Labour Party in the next general election after the significant defeat.

“I want to also make it clear that I will not lead the party in any future general election campaign,” Corbyn said. “I will discuss with our party to ensure there is a process now of reflection on this result and on the policies that the party will take going forward. And I will lead the party during that period to ensure that discussion takes place and we move on into the future.”

The election was hailed on all political sides as the “most important vote in a generation.”

At the last general election in 2017, Theresa May, the prime minister at the time, lost the Conservatives’ governing majority, which ultimately shot down her attempts to get her Brexit deal through Parliament. After she resigned, Johnson replaced her this summer with the promise to secure Brexit by an Oct. 31 deadline.

He was ultimately was forced by opposition parties — and rebel MPs in his own ranks — to request an extension to the deadline and call an election.

Johnson hailed the election victory as a “powerful mandate to get Brexit done.”

“That gives us now in this new government the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people, to change this country for the better, and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country,” he said. “And that is what we will now do.”

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