UPDATED: The third general election in Britain in four years has returned former London mayor Boris Johnson as prime minister and given his Conservative Party a commanding majority in Parliament. Johnson campaigned on a promise to finally pull the U.K. out of the European Union after three-and-a-half years of political infighting since Britons voted to leave in a June 2016 referendum.
Semi-official results Friday morning showed the Conservatives (also known as Tories) winning 364 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, with one race still to be called. The threshold to win parliament is 326 seats. The opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, limped to a disastrous finish with 203 seats. The remaining seats are spread among smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens.
Pre-election polls had projected a healthy win for Johnson’s Tories, but his mandate is stronger than many had expected. The British pound surged to a 19-month high against the dollar on the back of the news.
“I will make it my mission to work night and day, flat out, to prove you right in voting for me this time and to earn your support in the future,” Johnson said in his victory speech, adding: “We will get Brexit done on time, by the 31st of January – no ifs, no buts, no maybes – leaving the European Union as one United Kingdom, taking back control of our laws, borders, money, our trade [and] immigration system.”
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Johnson and his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, repeatedly failed to get an E.U. withdrawal bill past lawmakers during the last two years of deadlock in Parliament. But he now stands a strong chance of succeeding given his party’s new majority – the biggest for the Conservatives since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister in the 1980s.
If he succeeds in persuading the House of Commons to approve his withdrawal bill, Britain would formally exit the 28-nation E.U. on Jan. 31, 2020 – the first member state to call it quits from the world’s largest trading bloc. However, almost nothing would change immediately: The U.K. would continue to operate on the same terms with the E.U. as it does now during a transition period set to run till the end of 2020, when a new trade deal between the two sides would supposedly kick in. Many observers are doubtful that such a complex and far-reaching trade agreement can be struck in such a short space of time.
Britain’s entertainment industry is overwhelmingly against Brexit and, like other sectors, has been chafing at the uncertainty over what kind of relationship the U.K. will eventually have with the E.U.