Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won Britain’s crunch election and gained a decisive majority as voters backed his pledge to “get Brexit done.”
The Prime Minister’s commanding win in the early hours of Friday morning saw his Conservatives secure the highest majority of any government since Tony Blair’s Labour in 2001. With just one seat left to be declared, the Conservatives upped their presence in Parliament by 47 seats to 364, while Labour lost 59 seats to 203.
Johnson fought his campaign on the controversial issue of whether Britain should leave the EU — which has split the country and been a drag on the pound and markets since the referendum in 2016.
But the size of the win and the increased certainty that the country will now depart the EU early next year sent the pound soaring /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.6523% to a 19-month high versus the dollar. While off its post-election highs, the pound still fetched over $1.34, compared to $1.3164 on Thursday.
“While the election outcome was quickly reflected in the pound exchange rate, the direction from here depends on what kind of relationship Boris Johnson really wants to have with the E.U.,” said Van Luu, head of currency and fixed income strategy at Russell Investments, who says the pound could climb as high as $1.38.
Stocks in the U.K. /zigman2/quotes/210598417/delayed UK:MCX -0.60% — particularly homebuilders and banks exposed more to the British economy than the global one — surged. “No election result was going to be ideal for equity markets, but this is probably as good as it gets,” said strategist at Citi.
Johnson now has a mandate to ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the European Union, and the U.K. could be set to leave on Jan. 31, which is 10 months later than initially planned. Attention will now move toward reaching a trade deal, both with the E.U. as well as the United States.
In a speech Johnson delivered after holding on to his own seat he said the Government has been given a “powerful new mandate to get Brexit done”.
“At this stage it does look as though this one-nation Conservative government has been given a powerful new mandate, to get Brexit done and not just to get Brexit done but to unite this country and to take it forward,” Johnson said.
“I think this will turn out to be a historic election that gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people.
“To change this country for the better and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country.”
Leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn admitted it was a “very disappointing” night for the Labour party and said he would not lead the party in any future election campaign.
In a speech he attacked the media and said: “Obviously it is a very disappointing night for the party. But I want to say this — in the election campaign we put forward a manifesto of hope.
“However, Brexit has so polarized debate it has overridden so much of normal political debate.”
Corbyn added he would lead the party through a process of reflection on the results and on future policies.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson suffered the humiliation of losing her seat in Scottish constituency Dunbartonshire East in a blow for the party.
The Scottish National Party meanwhile added 13 seats, a strong result that will bring the issue of Scottish independence back into the limelight.