Why Tory victory is a mixed blessing for Boris Johnson

December 17, 2019 17:07
The election results have given Prime Minister Boris Johnson a solid mandate to press ahead with Brexit as scheduled, but they might also lead to further divisions in the country. Photo: Reuters

In the general election of the United Kingdom last week, the Tories, under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, swept to a landslide victory and won a clear majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Undoubtedly, the election results gave Johnson a solid mandate to press ahead with Brexit as scheduled.

But while the outcome may have put an end to the quarrel over whether or not the UK should stick to its Brexit agenda, it may not necessarily set the country on a course towards unity.

The election results might even reinforce the divisions in the country.

The Tories have won big in the elections, but so has the Scottish National Party (SNP), which now holds 48 of the 59 seats in the Scottish parliament.

Almost immediately after her party’s landslide victory, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed that she had also secured a popular mandate from the Scottish people to hold a second independence referendum.

Sturgeon said she will seek the prime minister’s approval for holding the second independence vote before Christmas, and that Scottish voters are going to decide their own future through the ballot box even without London’s green light.

The latest election results have also spelled nightmare for the Unionists in Northern Ireland, as the Republicans, or the Irish nationalist parties, i.e. the Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, now outnumber the pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party in the British parliament.

Under Johnson’s Brexit plan, Northern Ireland is going to remain a de facto member of the European Union and avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland in the coming days. As a result, the reunification drive between the north and the south has regained momentum.

In fact, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has already asked Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to hold a referendum on Irish unity according to the 1998 Belfast Agreement in the next five years.

As we can see, the Tory victory is a mixed blessing for Johnson for while it enables him to deliver Brexit as planned, it might also set the scene for the disintegration of the UK.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 16

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal