UK exit poll hints at a John­son win

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD -

Fri­day, De­cem­ber 13, 2019

That would ful­fill the de­ci­sion of Bri­tish vot­ers in 2016 to leave the EU. It would start a new phase of ne­go­ti­a­tions on fu­ture re­la­tions be­tween Bri­tain and the 27 re­main­ing EU mem­bers.

John­son did not men­tion the exit poll as he thanked vot­ers in a tweet. “Thank you to ev­ery­one across our great coun­try who voted, who vol­un­teered, who stood as can­di­date,” he said. “We live in the great­est democ­racy in the world.”

Con­ser­va­tive Party chair­man James Clev­erly said he was cau­tious about the poll, but that if sub­stan­ti­ated it would give the party “a big ma­jor­ity” that could be used to “get Brexit done.”

Many in­vestors hope a Con­ser­va­tive win would speed up the Brexit process and ease, at least in the short term, some of the un­cer­tainty that has cor­roded busi­ness con­fi­dence since the 2016 vote.

A Labour drub­bing would raise ques­tions over the fu­ture of Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, who will have led his left-of-cen­ter party to two elec­toral de­feats since 2017.

“Cer­tainty this exit poll is a dev­as­tat­ing blow,” said Labour trade spokesman Barry Gar­diner. “It’s a deeply de­press­ing re­sult.”

Many vot­ers cast­ing ballots Thurs­day hoped the elec­tion might fi­nally find a way out of the Brexit stale­mate in this di­vided na­tion.

On a dank, gray day with out­breaks of blus­tery rain, vot­ers went to polling sta­tions in schools, com­mu­nity cen­ters, pubs and town halls af­ter a bad-tem­pered five­week cam­paign rife with mud­sling­ing and mis­in­for­ma­tion.

Opinion polls had given the Con­ser­va­tives a steady lead, but the re­sult was con­sid­ered hard to pre­dict, be­cause the is­sue of Brexit cuts across tra­di­tional party loy­al­ties.

Three and

ahalf years af­ter the U.K. voted by 52%-48% to leave the EU, Bri­tons re­main split over whether to leave the 28na­tion bloc, and law­mak­ers have proved in­ca­pable of agree­ing on de­par­ture terms.

John­son pushed for the early elec­tion — Bri­tain’s first De­cem­ber vote since 1923 — to try to break the po­lit­i­cal log­jam. He cam­paigned re­lent­lessly on a prom­ise to “Get Brexit done” by get­ting Par­lia­ment to rat­ify his “oven-ready” di­vorce deal with the EU and take Bri­tain out of the bloc as sched­uled on Jan. 31.

The Con­ser­va­tives fo­cused much of their en­ergy on try­ing to win in a “red wall” of work­ing-class towns in cen­tral and north­ern Eng­land that have elected Labour law­mak­ers for decades but also voted strongly in 2016 to leave the EU. That ef­fort got a boost when the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage de­cided at the last minute not to con­test 317 Con­ser­va­tive-held seats to avoid split­ting the proBrexit vote.

Labour, which is largely but am­bigu­ously pro-EU, faced com­pe­ti­tion for an­tiBrexit vot­ers from the cen­trist Lib­eral Democrats, Scot­tish and Welsh na­tion­al­ist par­ties, and the Greens.

On Brexit, the op­po­si­tion party said it would ne­go­ti­ate a new di­vorce deal with the EU and then of­fer vot­ers the choice of leav­ing the 28na­tion bloc on those terms or re­main­ing.

But on the whole Labour tried to fo­cus the cam­paign away from Brexit and onto its rad­i­cal do­mes­tic agenda, vow­ing to tax the rich, na­tion­al­ize in­dus­tries such as rail­roads and wa­ter com­pa­nies and give ev­ery­one in the coun­try free in­ter­net ac­cess. It cam­paigned heav­ily on the fu­ture of the Na­tional Health Ser­vice, a re­spected in­sti­tu­tion that has strug­gled to meet ris­ing de­mand af­ter nine years of aus­ter­ity un­der Con­ser­va­tive-led gov­ern­ments.

TOLGA AK­MEN/GETTY-AFP

An exit poll is pro­jected Thurs­day out­side the BBC build­ing in Lon­don. Ballots are still be­ing counted, with of­fi­cial re­sults ex­pected early Fri­day.

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