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Britain Officially Starts Withdrawal From the European Union


Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party have won a big victory in general elections.

Results show the Conservatives won a clear majority of the 650 seats in Parliament. Johnson is now likely to act on his promise to lead Britain out of the European Union (EU).

The country is set to withdraw from the EU by January 31, the latest time limit set by the two sides. However, British negotiators will have much work to do to reach a trade deal with Europe before that date.

Johnson has stated that Britain will withdraw from the EU, a move known as Brexit, with or without a deal in place.

It has been more than three years since Britons decided in a special referendum to separate from the EU. Political observers say it is likely that voters on Thursday, even those who wanted to stay with the EU, had grown tired of the issue and political indecision.

‘Get Brexit Done’

Before the vote, Johnson had a simple message: “Get Brexit Done.” The message was designed to win votes. During the election campaign, the prime minister tried to avoid answering reporters’ questions. His actions led to criticism in the media, but clearly did not hurt him and other Conservative candidates.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative party leader Boris Johnson poses as he hammers a
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative party leader Boris Johnson poses as he hammers a "Get Brexit Done" sign into the garden of a supporter, in Benfleet, east of London on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.

The Associated Press notes that the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, struggled to find a message to appeal to voters. Corbyn was seen as unsure about whether he supported Brexit or not. He was criticized for failing to take steps to deal with reports of anti-Semitism in his party. He also failed to gain support for costly socialist reforms.

Corbyn has said he will not lead the Labour Party into another election, but has not offered to step down immediately.

In addition to the Conservatives, the National Party of Scotland was another big winner in the elections. The party won 48 seats in Parliament, 13 more than it had before.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said the election gave her a renewed mandate to push for another vote on Scottish independence. A vote on independence failed in 2014. Johnson has said he opposes another referendum on Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the pro-Britain Democratic Unionist Party lost two of its 10 seats in the election. The party’s leader, Arlene Foster, blamed Irish nationalist parties for the defeat.

The vote showed strong support for Brexit, but the Brexit Party of Nigel Farage did not win any seats. The party decided against nominating candidates for 317 Conservative-held seats to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.

Farage said he would rather his party not win seats than have a second referendum on Brexit.

Johnson’s success did not seem possible only a few weeks ago. His first three months in office were marked by defeats in Parliament and in the courts.

This summer, after the prime minister sought to have Parliament suspended in order to push through Brexit, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled the move illegal. He was then forced to ask the EU for more time beyond October 31 to work toward a Brexit agreement.

Johnson then took a chance by supporting calls for general elections in an effort to gain public support and allies to pass Brexit legislation.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this AP story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

referendum –n. a vote in a county, state or country in which the public votes on a single issue

mandate –n. the power to act that voters give their elected leaders

ratheradv. with better reason; more willing