Boris Johnson’s Conservatives secured a landslide victory over Labour in the general election – and the PM vowed to get Brexit done – “no ifs, no buts”.
After months of deadlock over the issue, which has divided the country, Mr Johnson said his party had been given a “powerful” mandate to take the country out of the EU by 31 January 2020.
Mr Johnson addressed the nation at 7am on Friday (13 December), saying Brexit was now an “irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people”.
And he promised people who had lent their vote to the Tories in traditional Labour areas: “I will not let you down.”
The PM gambled his premiership by triggering the election, which had been billed as one of the most important in a generation.
General election result in full
- Conservatives – 365 seats (+47)
- Labour – 203 seats (-59)
- SNP – 48 seats (+13)
- Lib Dems – 11 seats (-1)
- DUP – 8 seats (-2)
- Other – 15 seats (+2)
But the gamble paid off after Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party suffered heavy losses, especially in Brexit-supporting traditional Labour heartlands in the North and Midlands, where many voters switched their allegiances to blue.
Labour had set out plans to renegotiate a “better” Brexit deal with the EU and offer a “legally binding” second referendum on the outcome, which included the option to remain.
But the Conservatives won a majority of 80 seats in Thursday’s election, strengthening their hand on Brexit and securing Mr Johnson a mandate to push his deal through parliament next Friday.
Mr Corbyn announced he would step down as Labour leader before the next election but would stay on for a “period of reflection”.
Jo Swinson said she would step down as Lib Dem leader after losing her Dumbartonshire East seat to the Scottish National Party (SNP) by 149 votes.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon called for a second referendum on Scottish independence. But in a phone call on Friday night, Mr Johnson told her he opposed her stance and was committed to strengthening the union.
Farmers on both sides of the Brexit debate said they hoped the result would end months of uncertainty.
Here is exclusive reaction given to Farmers Weekly from farmers across the UK on a momentous night for politics and the future direction of the country:
Michael Seals, mixed farmer, Derbyshire
“I welcome the result – it’s an opportunity to put Brexit behind us and get on with running the country for a brighter future. As chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board, we see opportunities to change the way that government and farming work together, so it’s good we can now get on with developing this.
“We can now get Brexit done, enabling the government to move on and develop policies to secure a brighter future for the whole country. We’ve been held back to too long.
“All the ‘no-deal’ planning has taken up a huge resource at Defra, stopping it from doing the work it needs to have done to pave the way for farming’s future. We can now move on.”
Abi Reader, dairy farmer, Glamorganshire, South Wales
“I’m reasonably happy with the outcome. I voted ‘remain’ but I’ve been struggling to cope with all the indecisiveness. A hung parliament would only have dragged the pain out even more, so at least now we can get on with it.
“We need to get something done. We want a bit of direction and stability now, and I’m not in favour of a second referendum – that would not be right.”
Monty Andrew, mixed farmer, Lincolnshire (staunch Brexiteer)
“We always do better under a Labour government, but I think for stability we can look positively under a Tory government.
“However, the future of subsidies will come under the spotlight. If the Tories want £1m to build a new hospital, they may not give that money to farmers. We have got to make a plausible case why we need farming and the subsidies to keep everything buoyant.”
Andrew Brown, arable farmer, Rutland (Remain supporter)
“We have got a Tory government that is determined to take this country out of the EU, the biggest economic trading bloc in the world.
“We face and unknown and uncertain future with millions of people’s jobs at risk and this puts the economy down the drain.”
John Charles-Jones, arable farmer, Nottinghamshire
“I’m disappointed. I do not have a lot of trust in the prime minister. Yes, in his dreadful words, we can now ‘get Brexit done’ and we’ll leave the EU by 31 January 2020. But then the real work begins and I see no chance at all of getting a new trade deal agreed by the end of December 2020.
“In that scenario, we will be into ‘no deal’ territory again, which would be an appalling outcome for the agricultural industry.”
David Colthart, sheep and beef farmer, Argyll, Scotland
“In terms of Brexit, the vast majority of farmers want it dealt with. The uncertainty is killing the market. For example, the beef industry has seen a collapse in store prices. We hope the new government will bring stability into farming markets.
“I hope that Boris Johnson will now also honour his commitment to pay the £160m EU ‘convergence’ funding, which should have been allocated to Scottish farmers in 2014 rather than distributed across the UK.”
Robin Milton, hill farmer, Devon (former chariman NFU Hill and Uplands Farming Forum)
“Farmers have had an awful lot of broken promises. We have been stuck in paralysis for the last three years, unable to make any proper business decisions,” he said.
“If we are going to do Brexit, then let’s get on with it, but be realistic on the trade deal and what the necessary support will be to enable farm businesses to move forward.”
What’s your reaction to the result of the general election? Email email@example.com or contact Farmers Weekly on Twitter @farmersweekly