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Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Editorial

Clarity, but no certainty

THE CLEAR result of Thursday’s general election in the UK is in stark contrast to the razor-thin margin of the original Brexit vote as well as the slender dynamics of the hung Parliament that ensued after the 2017 election under Theresa May. The result can only be interpreted as a resounding affirmation by the British people that they’d like their country to get on with Brexit. And, perhaps, they value what is represented by Boris Johnson.

The former is understandable, the latter somewhat disconcerting.

Though the democratic process has once again prevailed, questions over the state of the British union and in relation to Johnson’s track record on minority rights linger.

The result of the first December election in a century for the UK now sets the stage for an easier Brexit. To the extent that there is now greater certainty with regard to the overall trajectory of the country, this is welcomed. The markets surged yesterday as Johnson’s landslide 365 to 203 victory over Labour was confirmed.

In sharp contrast to the definitiveness of the vote is the overwhelming uncertainty that now surrounds the finer details. It’s not clear what type of Brexit will now be pursued, whether soft or hard. Will Johnson, emboldened by his clear mandate, seek to pull the UK out of economic arrangements that might have withstood the political divorce under older versions of the withdrawal agreement? And what of pending matters like co-operation on security? Could the prospect of no deal resurrect?

Though Johnson received a clear mandate, it is equally true pro-EU Scotland and Northern Ireland sent strong signals. Many have speculated whether this week’s poll was the last to be held in a United Kingdom.

The Scottish National Party won by a landslide in Scotland, giving Nicola Sturgeon equally impressive authority. Her mandate is to get Scotland a referendum on independence so that it can have the power to control its own destiny regarding things like the EU. Similar positions can be expected in Northern Ireland.

The SNP also defeated Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire. Swinson’s pledge to revoke Article 50 clearly alienated voters. Her ouster underlines the dangers of going against the will of the people, however expressed.

In the end, then, the election has brought only a temporary respite.

Deeper anxieties linger in the minds of many minorities alienated by the overall political trajectory of their nation. For example, the Muslim Council of Britain yesterday reported “a palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” after Johnson’s election victory. Brexit appears to have opened a Pandora’s box, allowing the open expression of vile prejudices and an alarming rise in hate crimes against people deemed “the other.”

All eyes will be on Johnson to see what tone he will set and what path he will lead his country down.

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