Victorious Johnson urges Britain to move past Brexit splits

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Britons on Friday (Dec 13) to put years of bitter divisions over the country's EU membership behind them as he vowed to use his resounding election victory to finally deliver Brexit next month.

Johnson's ruling Conservatives won their best result for three decades on Thursday night after promising to get Britain out of the European Union on Jan 31, a new deadline set by Brussels.

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The snap general election turned into a re-run of the original 2016 EU membership referendum, whose outcome paralysed Britain's leaders and created divisions across society.

But in a victory speech in Downing Street, the former London mayor struck a magnanimous tone, vowing to listen to those who opposed Brexit and lead an inclusive government.

"I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin," he said hours after visiting Queen Elizabeth II to be reappointed prime minister.

Johnson staked his political career on the election, which created the possibility of the pro-EU opposition rising to power and calling a new Brexit referendum that could undo the first's results.

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But the gambit payed off spectacularly, with his Tories securing 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons – the biggest majority since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

READ: After Tory win, what now for the UK economy?

It also devastated the main opposition Labour party, which suffered its worst result since 1935.

Labour's socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down after a period of "reflection" within the century-old party about its future course.

The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats also had a dismal night, falling to just 11 seats and losing their leader, Jo Swinson.

HONOUR THE MANDATE

London stocks and the British pound jumped on hopes of an end to years of uncertainty, which has hurt investment and economic growth.

Johnson said his party had an "overwhelming mandate from this election to get Brexit done".

He promised to then focus on other public priorities, notably by increasing investment in healthcare, schools and infrastructure.

"The work is now stepped up to make 2020 a year of prosperity and growth and hope," he concluded, to cheers from aides and activists outside Number 10.

READ: How the world is reacting to Johnson's big UK vote win

Anti-Brexit campaign groups expressed dismay at the result, which spells the end of attempts to keep Britain in the European Union, although many voters welcomed a decisive result.

"At least it's clear," said lawyer Gordon Hockey in London. "It's not necessarily what I wanted but at least we know where we stand and Brexit will happen in some form or other."

TRUMP CHEERS 'GREAT WIN'

Parliament will reconvene on Tuesday and Johnson is expected to publish legislation before Christmas needed to ratify the Brexit deal he agreed with Brussels in October.

This should be passed by January but Britain and the EU still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement – a process that officials have warned could take years.

At an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, the bloc's leaders expressed relief at the clear result and said they would work for a swift trade deal.

READ: 'Bad news for Europe': EU reluctantly congratulates Johnson

But they warned that any new arrangement must uphold European values and norms.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain would be an economic "competitor at our door" after Brexit.

The result of Britain's third election in almost five years signals a personal victory for Johnson, who remains a polarising figure.

US President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations on a "great WIN!" and said London and Washington would be able to strike a "massive new trade deal".

Johnson has promised new free trade deals with the EU and the United States, and after Thursday's victory, now has the political capital at home to press ahead.

The US State Department said Friday it was "committed" Read More – Source