Once again, democracy has triumphed – Brexit is now unstoppable

by Nicola Ferronato, political scientist

On 12 December last year, the British people were called to the polls in a very exceptional and unprecedented context. They were asked to vote for a new Parliament, and therefore, in favour or against the government of Boris Johnson. So far, this might look like a rather normal election. But here is the twist: voting for Johnson meant (re)voting for Brexit. And voting for the status quo or for the opposition would have meant voting against Brexit. And this is where the exceptional character of these legislative elections lies: the British people once again confirmed its will to leave the European Union (EU) and rejected the idea of a second referendum that the opposition was proposing.
Since the referendum in June 2016, the people had not had the opportunity to express its views on Brexit. Therefore, since then, the mass media – and especially the left-wing media – had been repeating over and over again that the people had changed its mind and ultimately wanted to stay in the EU: hence a second referendum was necessary.
But as I stated in my last articles, it was quite the opposite. Uncertainty about the country’s economy, but also about everyday life, had been making the British people go desperate, and now more than ever they want Brexit to be implemented. No wonder Johnson won with its slogan “GET BREXIT DONE”.

Finally more clarity

After three years of uncertainty, this election has brought certainty. Certainty for the individual, but also for businesses and the economy as a whole. Even the French daily “Le Figaro”, which is critical of Brexit, writes on 13 December 2019: “The Paris Stock Exchange, driven by Donald Trump’s announcements about trading and Boris Johnson’s victory in the British parliamentary elections, is at its highest level since 12 years”. The economic indicators in the United Kingdom have been more than positive since the Conservatives’ victory. The pound sterling broadly applauded Boris Johnson’s victory by jumping higher than 2% compared to the dollar and the euro following the election results. The FTSE-100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index), the main index of the London Stock Exchange, rose by 1.43% and the FTSE-250, which reflects the entire British economy, by 4.2%.

Clear majority for the Conservatives

With a gain of 47 seats, the Conservatives now have an absolute majority with 365 seats of the 650 seats in Westminster.
This is the Conservatives’ biggest victory since 1987, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Certainly, Boris Johnson is by far the best Prime Minister in the UK since the days of the Iron Lady. Clearly, he has managed to do what no other politician could have done in his place.
As it has been said, he won an absolute majority in Parliament, something the Conservatives have not had for nearly 40 years. But from the very beginning of his mandate he recorded a number of successes, particularly in the negotiations on the divorce agreement with the EU. It should be remembered that Johnson has accomplished a real “Mission: Impossible” by negotiating an agreement with Brussels in only 85 days that could be accepted by all, whereas Theresa May failed to do so in three years. Even the Westminster Parliament had approved the “principle” of the agreement by 329 votes to 299.
So, not only was Johnson able to reopen negotiations with Brussels, but he also changed some of the key provisions of the agreement that were “non-negotiable” for Brussels. The best example of this is the removal of the Irish “backstop”, considered undemocratic by most British politicians. Indeed, the backstop was a chapter in Ms May’s agreement and provided for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU customs union for a long transitional period. But now the new agreement ensures the unity of the entire British and Northern Irish customs territory, as it provides that Northern Ireland, which is an integral part of the UK, remains in the UK customs union and not in the EU customs union. Indeed, the current Government considers that it would have been unacceptable for any part of the country to lose customs sovereignty. Thus, the previously “non-negotiable” backstop has ended up in oblivion. Another improvement over the old agreement is that the current Government has succeeded in enshrining the ambition of a free trade agreement (between the UK and the EU) in the Political Declaration, which is expected to be signed by the end of 2020.

The fall of the left

The left, on the other hand, lost 59 seats and keeps only 203. This is the most painful Labour defeat since 1935. It seems that Jeremy Corbin will be soon stepping down as party leader. Fortunately, his socialist-revolutionary-Bolivarian ideas did not convince the British people and the devastating nationalisations he had planned will not take place.
We also note that Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is losing her seat in Parliament. Happy days! With her credo of “Stop Brexit”, she wanted to reverse the course of history, even if it meant throwing overboard the 2016-verdict of the people as well as democracy in the broadest sense.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party did not get any seat. This defeat was probably due to the party’s lack of long-term political vision.

What will happen in the coming months?

Charles Michel, the new President of the European Council, says he is “ready” to negotiate the future relationship and a free trade agreement with Johnson. And since the UK’s withdrawal agreement provides for a transition period until 31 December 2020, the UK Government certainly has its work cut out for it. It will have to negotiate a free trade agreement within months while at the same time honouring its campaign promises: more police in the streets, more nurses and doctors, more hospitals and a stable economy. It is highly likely that the election promises will be kept, but it is also possible that Boris Johnson will encounter more obstacles than expected in the negotiation of the free trade agreement with the EU.
It also seems that Brexit will bear its first fruits, since there is already talk of negotiating a free trade agreement with the US. Donald Trump himself has expressed his willingness to negotiate a free trade agreement with Johnson “which has the potential to be bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU.”
What is now a priority is the ratification of the divorce agreement by the new Parliament, which truly represents the will of the people, and that the Brexit is finally implemented. The earlier ratification takes place, the better for the EU, the British and democracy in the broadest sense.    •

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