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Johnson’s election gamble set to pay off as poll predicts big Tory majority

A man runs with a ballot box during the count at Islington Town Hall for the Islington North and South constituencies for the 2019 General Election. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday December 13, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was last night set to win a majority of 86 seats in Britain's election, giving him the numbers in parliament he needs to deliver Brexit on Jan. 31, an exit poll indicated on Thursday.
The exit poll showed Mr Johnson's Conservatives would win 368 seats, enough for a comfortable outright majority in the 650-seat parliament. Labour were forecast to win 191 seats, the Scottish National Party 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats 13.

If Mr Johnson's bet on a snap election paid off, he will move swiftly to ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the European Union so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 - 10 months later than initially planned.

The outcome of the U.K. election will have a direct impact on the shape of Brexit not just for the the U.K. but also for Gibraltar, where the count was being closely monitored last night.

In the run up to the election, the Gibraltar Government insisted it had worked hard to ensure it had prepared for any potential result, working will all political parties in the U.K. to ensure the Rock’s position was understood and protected.

“Each potential result will bring challenges, but we have already done the groundwork to ensure we can also exploit the opportunities that arise from each of the potential outcomes,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told this newspaper on the eve of the vote.

Mr Johnson called the first Christmas election since 1923 to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain's political system after more than three years of crisis over how, when or even if to leave the European Union.

The face of the "Leave" campaign in the 2016 referendum, 55-year-old Mr Johnson fought the election under the slogan of "Get Brexit Done", promising to end the deadlock and spend more on health, education and the police.

Mr Johnson's strategy was to breach Labour's so called "Red Wall" of seats across the Brexit-supporting areas of the Midlands and northern England where he cast his political opponents as the out-of-touch enemies of Brexit.

While a majority will allow Mr Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973, Brexit is far from over: He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU in just 11 months.

After January 31 Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU27.

This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

If borne out by the actual results, the Prime Minister will return to Number 10 on Friday with a considerable majority which will, in theory, enable him to drive through his Brexit deal and take the UK out of the European Union next month.

It would represent the largest majority for a Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

The result will be seen as a triumph for his tightly-controlled election campaign, which was largely gaffe-free until the final week.

It will, however, be a significant set-back for the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will have twice led his party to defeat at the polls.

Mr Johnson entered the election without a majority - having just 298 Tory MPs - after some quit the party and he withdrew the whip from others when they rebelled over Brexit.

Labour, who had 243 MPs when Parliament was dissolved last month, is forecast to have lost 52 seats.

Such a poor result would be the worst for Labour in terms of seats since 1935 and would put extreme pressure on the party's leader to stand down after losing a second General Election in a row.