Boris can Brexit, can he keep UK united?

Boris can Brexit, can he keep UK united?

Boris Johnson’s gamble to call for early parliamentary elections paid off. Not only did the Conservative Party emerge winner in last week’s general election—it won 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, compared to the Labour Party’s 203 seats—but Johnson has returned with a stronger mandate. In term of seats, this is the biggest Tory victory since 1987. The party’s 44% vote share makes this win the most spectacular since 1979 when Margaret Thatcher came to power. Undoubtedly, this is Johnson’s victory; he led the Tory charge in the election. Unlike Johnson’s campaign, which focused on Brexit and was clear on where it stood on this issue, the Labour Party campaign seemed unfocused and confused. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership did not enthuse voters to support the party. As a result, Labour plunged to its worst electoral performance since 1935. Even traditional Labour strongholds fell to the Tories. 

After many months of uncertainty, there is clarity now. Johnson called for early elections when Parliament refused to endorse his Brexit deal with the EU. He now has the numbers to get the deal passed and to move to the next stage. While the end of the tunnel is visible, problems loom. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won an emphatic victory. It took 48 of the 59 seats in Scotland. The SNP is strongly opposed to Brexit. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has said that the SNP’s victory indicates that Scots do not want to be dragged out of the EU against their will. Will Johnson heed their call for another referendum on Brexit in Scotland? Has the stage been set for Scots to go their own way?

Northern Ireland is witnessing dramatic changes. Although the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won the largest number of seats from Northern Ireland, nationalist parties have together returned more parliamentarians than unionist parties for the first time ever in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is expected to be the worst hit by Brexit and the Irish nationalists oppose it. The election result and the imminence of Brexit will boost Irish nationalist fervour. Johnson’s victory may have eased his path out of the EU but at the same time, this path will not be without its challenges. His government will need to deal with challenges from Scottish and Irish nationalists to not only Brexit but also the future of the British Union. Johnson’s landslide victory in the recent general election could turn out to be a Pyrrhic one. Johnson runs the risk of being the prime minister who presides over the liquidation of the United Kingdom.

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