The forks ahead

Thursday, 2019-12-12 16:50:52
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Boris Johnson on a visit to Grimsby fish market on Monday. (Photo credit:
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NDO – On the last day of his election campaign, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in the port town of Grimsby which has been considered as a ‘support stronghold’ of the opposition Labour Party.

This action reflected the determination of the ruling Conservative Party to win in the election that is being labelled ‘Brexit election’. However, even if Johnson continues to be assigned the ‘steering’ tasks, there will be still many forks ahead of the ‘Brexit boat’.

Speaking to his supporters at a fish market in Grimsby on December 9, PM Johnson emphasised that voters should not underestimate anything. This is considered as an acknowledgement of difficulties before the parliament election, although all surveys of voters, which were conducted close to the voting days, agreed on a ‘victory within reach’ for the Conservative Party. He lobbied and received the response from voters in the locality called a ‘firewall’ that has shielded and supported the Labour Party for a long time.

PM Johnson was judged to be quite risky as he accelerated the general election ahead of time, with the hope of the Conservatives Party wining a majority to ensure that the Brexit deal that London and EU gained in October could pass through the ‘doorway’ of the British House of Representatives, pushing the Britain’s process of leaving EU to finish on the latest deadline (January 31, 2020). Since the 2017 parliament election, despite leading, the Conservative Party has lost its majority, thereby losing the ability of fulfill the aspirations of the majority of voters on the UK leaving the EU, as the government's proposed Brexit deal was still blocked at the door of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party considered the premature election as an opportunity to form its government after nine years. The Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to renegotiate a Brexit deal with the EU and put it to a second referendum. He felt confident about the possibility of winning the election, though the Labour Party’s influence is less strong than in the 2017 election campaign. Corbyn announced that he would continue to encourage people to vote Labour because many voters have not decided yet.

Not only in regards to Brexit, there is also a difference between the Conservative Party’s support for businesses community and open market and the Labour Party’s priority of social security issues. PM Johnson announced his plans within the first 100 days of taking office if he wins the election, which included a series of attractive proposals, particularly a tax cut and tightening immigration rules. Meanwhile, the Labour Party was faithful to the stance of increasing government’s spending, through a message of ‘putting money in your pocket" and ‘putting power in your hands’ sent to voters. However, in terms of Brexit, both two political parties were in an unfavorable situation, when PM Johnson still faced public suspicions about the Brexit path and Corbyn was also criticised for his inconsistency and even anti-Brexit viewpoint in the Labour Party.

Most polls of British voters ahead of December 12 have provided favourable results for Prime Minister Johnson as the Conservative Party took the lead over the Labour Party with a safe enough gap. However, the reality of the UK elections showed that the expected results were not always realistic. For example, the 2017 general election resulted in a "suspended" British Parliament when the Conservative Party did not win completely due to not wining majority.

The forecast of the scenario mentioned above repeated more and more during the days close to the election. With the possibility of suspended Parliament in the UK, it is difficult to know when the Brexit process can overcome the current ‘mess’. On the other hand, although the Conservative Party win a majority and ensure that a Brexit deal will be approved by the House of Representatives and the UK can leave EU on time, London’s ‘divorce’ is not sure to end easily. The reason being that theUK will enter a transition period and the country should seek a trade agreement with the EU to avoid ‘hard Brexit’ in late 2020, while the time for negotiation and adaptation of such an agreement cannot be several months.

The advantage leans towards PM Johnson and his commitment of ‘Brexit at all costs’. However, the UK’s process of leaving EU still faces many options, posing many challenges despite the results of today’s election.