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Speedy Brexit is on the agenda after big election win by Boris Johnson's Conservatives

Christina Boyle and Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LONDON -- Exulting in his party's sweeping election victory, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed Friday to swiftly steer the country out of the European Union -- a move his vanquished foes acknowledge is now inevitable.

With the vote-counting virtually complete, Johnson's Conservative Party secured its biggest parliamentary majority in more than 30 years, while the main opposition Labor's share of seats in the 650-member House of Commons plunged to the lowest level since 1935.

But the prime minister will face enormous challenges as he tries to hold the United Kingdom together amid deep Brexit-related fissures in Scotland and Northern Ireland. And the formal exit from the bloc, now set for Jan. 31, will serve to mark the beginning of what are expected to be tortuous trade negotiations with the EU.

Even so, investors were euphoric, with stocks and the British pound buoyed by relief over the breaking of the Brexit deadlock, with all its attendant uncertainty.

"We did it -- we pulled it off, didn't we?" a gleeful Johnson told supporters on Friday. He called leaving the EU the "irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision" of the voters.

President Donald Trump weighed in with congratulations, declaring on Twitter that "Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new trade deal." Trump has consistently cheered Britain's planned break with the EU, discomfiting European allies like Germany and France.

 

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn resisted calls to step down immediately in the wake of his party's crushing defeat, saying a "process of reflection" was in order. Many within the Labor ranks blamed the election debacle on the party's muddled message on Brexit, coupled with the 70-year-old party leader's personal unpopularity and a far-left social agenda.

"I'm very sad for many people in this country," a wan-looking Corbyn told the BBC.

Another casualty was Jo Swinson, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, who quit as party leader after a disappointing showing that included the loss of her own parliamentary seat. The party campaigned on an anti-Brexit platform, but failed to form an alliance with Labor to avoid splitting the anti-Johnson vote.

"Next week is the shortest day," Swinson said, alluding to the scant hours of winter daylight in northern climes. "We will see more light in the future."

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