London, Dec 14 (AFP/APP): Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Britons on Friday to put years of bitter divisions over the country’s EU membership behind them as he vowed to use his resounding election victory to finally deliver Brexit next month.
Johnson’s ruling Conservatives won their best result for three decades on Thursday night after promising to get Britain out of the European Union on January 31, a new deadline set by Brussels.
The snap general election turned into a re-run of the original 2016 EU membership referendum, whose outcome paralysed Britain’s leaders and created divisions across society.
But in a victory speech in Downing Street, the former London mayor struck a magnanimous tone, vowing to listen to those who opposed Brexit and lead an inclusive government.
“I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” he said hours after visiting Queen Elizabeth II to be reappointed prime minister.
Johnson staked his political career on the election, which created the possibility of the pro-EU opposition rising to power and calling a new Brexit referendum that could undo the first’s results.
But the gambit payed off spectacularly, with his Tories securing 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons — the biggest majority since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.
It also devastated the main opposition Labour party, which suffered its worst result since 1935.
Labour’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down after a period of “reflection” within the century-old party about its future course.
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats also had a dismal night, falling to just 11 seats and losing their leader, Jo Swinson.