Pro-EU party win cuts John­son’s U.K. Par­lia­ment ma­jor­ity to one

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - JILL LAW­LESS

LON­DON — British Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s Brexit-back­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party lost a spe­cial elec­tion Fri­day to a pro-EU op­po­si­tion can­di­date, leav­ing John­son with only a one-vote ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment as the U.K.’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union looms.

In the Con­ser­va­tives’ first elec­toral test since John­son be­came prime min­is­ter last month on a vow to com­plete Brexit “do or die,” the party was de­feated for the seat of Bre­con and Rad­nor­shire in Wales, by Jane Dodds of the Lib­eral Democrats. Dodds won 43 per cent of the vote, against 39 per cent for Con­ser­va­tive Chris Davies, who fought to re­tain the seat after be­ing con­victed and fined for ex­penses fraud.

Dodds urged John­son to rule out leav­ing the EU with­out a di­vorce agree­ment, say­ing “a no-deal Brexit would be a dis­as­ter” for agri­cul­tural ar­eas like her con­stituency 280 kilo­me­tres west of Lon­don.

Sheep farm­ers in Wales worry that with­out a Brexit deal steep tar­iffs on lamb ex­ports will dev­as­tate their busi­ness.

John­son won a Con­ser­va­tive Party lead­er­ship race by vow­ing that Bri­tain will leave the Euro­pean Union on Oct. 31, with or with­out a di­vorce deal. But he faces op­po­si­tion from Par­lia­ment, and the by­elec­tion re­sult makes it more dif­fi­cult for the govern­ment to pass laws and win votes in the 90 days be­fore the Brexit dead­line.

The out­come also re­flects the seis­mic ef­fect the U.K.’s de­ci­sion three years ago to leave the 28-na­tion EU has had on the coun­try’s pol­i­tics, with vot­ers in­creas­ingly split into pro-Brexit and pro-EU camps.

The cen­trist Lib­eral Democrats have seen their sup­port surge be­cause of their call for the U.K. to re­main in the bloc. In Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May, the party took 20 per cent of U.K. votes, trounc­ing both the Con­ser­va­tives and the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party, whose lead­er­ship is di­vided over Brexit.

Labour won just five per cent of the votes in Bre­con. The Lib­eral Democrats made a pact with two other pro-EU par­ties, which did not run to give Dodds a bet­ter chance.


Newly-elected Lib­eral Democrats MP Jane Dodds, left, lis­tens to party leader Jo Swin­son after the Bre­con and Rad­nor­shire by­elec­tion win on Fri­day.

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