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