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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Johnson to return as PM as Tories win big majority to 'get Brexit done'

Exit poll suggests Conservative leader will now be able to get deal through Commons

Dog day afternoon: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his dog Dilyn as he leaves a polling station at the Methodist Central Hall in London yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Dog day afternoon: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his dog Dilyn as he leaves a polling station at the Methodist Central Hall in London yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Philip Ryan and John Downing

Brexit has moved a step closer as Boris Johnson is set to be returned as UK prime minister with a significant Conservative Party majority.

According to a general election exit poll, Mr Johnson is predicted to win 368 seats which will give him control of the House of Commons and allow him pass the Brexit deal he agreed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing an election disaster after winning just a predicted 191 seats.

Mr Johnson tweeted: "Thank you to everyone across our great country who voted, who volunteered, who stood as candidates. We live in the greatest democracy in the world."

The election boost for Mr Johnson comes after the Taoiseach said he hoped UK voters did not return another hung parliament. Speaking before an EU summit in Brussels, the Taoiseach said he hoped the electorate returned "a large majority" for the outgoing prime minister or for the combined parties who back remaining in the EU.

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Mr Varadkar said the worst outcome for Ireland would be another UK parliament without an overall majority, which would mean more inaction and uncertainty on Brexit.

"The best thing for Ireland, for the United Kingdom and the European Union would be an end to the uncertainty," Mr Varadkar said.

"So, whether that's Prime Minister Johnson winning with a large majority, or the Remain parties together winning a majority, we'll work with whatever the outcome is," he said.

"But what has been very hard to work with has been a parliament which was a hung parliament, that wasn't able to come to a majority on anything. I just hope we're not in that position again," the Taoiseach added.

The Taoiseach's remarks came as millions of UK voters went to the polls to cast their ballot in the 'Brexit election'.

Reports suggested turnout was so high in some areas of London that voters were leaving polling stations because of long queues. It was also suggested bad weather, with heavy rain in England and snow in Scotland, could turn voters away from one of the most important general elections in modern UK history.

In Ireland, ministers were anxiously awaiting the outcome of the poll in the hope it would lead to a Brexit deal being finally passed by the House of Commons by the January 31 deadline.

Ministers will also be paying close attention to the election results in the North in the expectation it can bring an end to the political deadlock that has seen the Assembly suspended for three years.

Mr Varadkar said he and the 27 other EU leaders would be watching the UK results closely. The Taoiseach said tough negotiations will follow next year on a new post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal and indicated he will be seeking a strong role in those talks.

Following the release of the exit poll, questions were already being asked about the future of Mr Corbyn.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said it would be a "devastating" result if the poll was accurately reflected.

He added: "It's a deeply depressing prediction."

Asked if Labour needed a new leader, Mr Gardiner said: "These are things that will be discussed by the leadership of the party in the next few days."

Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson said if the exit poll was correct, Labour's losses were down to Mr Corbyn's unpopularity.

Sterling surged last night following the release of the exit poll.

Irish Independent

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