The United Kingdom’s election Thursday was billed as the country’s most historic general election in a generation—and it looks like current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Brexit plan will be the ultimate winner. According to an exit poll released when polls closed Thursday night, Johnson’s right-wing Conservative Party is likely to earn an overwhelming majority in the U.K. Parliament, with a projected 86-seat majority that would mark the party’s largest majority since 1987. The left-leaning Labour Party headed by Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, looks headed for a crushing defeat, with the party currently projected to suffer its weakest election performance since before World War II.
Official election results are expected to come in by Friday morning, but the early results have so far stayed in line with the shocking exit poll, with Conservatives already flipping seats in Northern England that have long been held by Labour. While the general election has primarily been viewed as a second referendum on Brexit—Johnson ran on a platform to “get Brexit done,” while Labour pushed for a people’s vote on a new Brexit deal—Labour’s expected defeat is also being pinned on voters’ dissatisfaction with Corbyn himself, a far-left politician who has remained controversially neutral on Brexit and turned off voters with his history of anti-Semitic comments. As a result, should the exit poll pan out, Corbyn’s days as Labour Party leader may be numbered. “We’ll see the results in the morning and then decisions will be made, I’m sure then,” Corbyn’s chief lieutenant John McDonald told the BBC Thursday when asked if Corbyn would resign. “Let’s see the results. We’ll make the appropriate decisions. We’ll always make the decisions in the best interests of our party.”
The U.K.’s other major anti-Brexit party, the center-left Liberal Democrats, are also expected to have a poor showing in the election, after running on a platform to overturn Brexit and keep the country in the European Union. The party is currently projected to earn only 13 seats (down from 20 when the election was called), and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson narrowly lost her own seat in Scotland after initially pushing for the general election in the first place. The Scottish National Party, which favors a second Scottish independence referendum in order to keep Scotland in the E.U., is expected to have a much better night, however. The exit poll projected that the party could earn as many as 55 of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, making the party the election’s biggest winner beyond the Conservative Party.
The expected election results will likely have some strong effects, from Corbyn’s potential resignation to the rising possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum. The Conservative Party’s wins could also have a major effect on the U.K.’s socialized health care system, as fears emerged before the election that under a Conservative government, the British healthcare system could become increasingly privatized and influenced by the American health insurance industry. But the primary consequence of the election results will of course be how they affect the future of Brexit. While a Labour win would have ensured the Brexit process would continue to drag on—and potentially get reversed—the projected Conservative victory means that the years-long process to take the U.K. out of the E.U. could come to a sooner end. Johnson called the general election specifically to gain a larger Conservative majority to pass a Brexit deal, after suffering a series of embarrassing defeats that resulted in the loss of his narrow Conservative majority and the failure to either take the U.K. out of the E.U. with a “hard Brexit” or get his negotiated Brexit deal passed. Now that Johnson is likely to have a strong majority backing him and his Brexit plans, it appears that his second chance at a “do or die” Brexit agenda may now finally succeed. “Boris Johnson can now start the process of Brexit,” Tony Travers, a professor of politics at the London School of Economics, told the New York Times Thursday. “There will be stability of a kind in British politics and in Britain’s approach to Brexit, although not a single aspect of Brexit will have been sorted out.”
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