Exit polls predicting a victory for Conservatives show that Brexit was at the heart of the snap UK parliamentary election. Tories are now cautiously making future plans as Labour struggles with the massive defeat.
The Conservatives met the first exit polls with guarded optimism, saying that a strong parliamentary majority could finally help them to be done with the seemingly endless process of taking the UK out of the EU.
Michael Gove, a minister in the current cabinet of PM Boris Johnson, commented on the results by expressing hope that the Conservatives would “get the Brexit bill through and then heal the country.”
His mood was seemingly shared by Interior Minister Priti Patel, who said that “getting Brexit done is the priority.”
“The deal is there. It is good to go. We need to move forward,” she added, calling to put an end to “this paralysis” of Parliament.
John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons went even further, suggesting the vote might be “a phenomenal victory for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson will feel completely vindicated with the gamble that he took.”
Though Tory co-chairman has urged taking the exit polls “with a degree of caution,” Johnson has already emailed the party members with a message to “enjoy a celebration” on Thursday night.
In the Labour camp, reactions ranged from skepticism over the exit polls to dismay and despair. Leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC that “appropriate decision will be made” about his future in the party once the final results are clear.
“It’s only the very beginning of the night, and it’s too early to call the result,” the party spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Labour was well aware that this would be a “challenging election” heavily influenced by Brexit.
The party’s trade spokesman Barry Gardiner did not hide his disappointment by calling the exit polls a “devastating result.” Labour activist and the Guardian columnist Owen Jones joined the chorus by calling the outcome “utterly devastating.”
Shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell said the results prove that the vote was a “Brexit election,” but expressed his doubts that the UK will actually manage to leave the EU.
Britain’s ‘Remainers’ shared in Labour’s pain. Naomi Smith, the head of the pro-European campaign group ‘Best for Britain,’ predicted that “a majority for Boris Johnson tonight would engulf the UK in a fresh crisis,” while calling the results “not promising.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he could live with not winning any seats, as the UK might finally get a Brexit, though he was skeptical if it would be “the right one.” He defended the decision not to stand in many seats and therefore help the Tories, saying that doing so would have resulted in a “hung Parliament.”
Across the Channel, EU officials lauded the clarity that the reported Conservatives landslide would bestow upon Brexit.
“If it’s confirmed … we can assume he’ll implement what he said he would do, that is to say Brexit at end-January,” one French diplomat told Reuters, adding that the EU would still like to have a strong relationship with the UK. Others were a little bit more cautious.
“Clarity is good. But a tall order to move on the future relationship in such a short time,” another EU official said.
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