LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Friday for unity to heal the Brexit divisions that have riven the United Kingdom, hours after winning a commanding victory from voters who backed his bid to deliver on the EU divorce by the end of January.
The face of the victorious “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum, 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.
Results from the 650 parliamentary constituencies around the United Kingdom showed that Johnson’s Conservative Party had trounced its main opponent, winning 365 seats to the Labour Party’s 203, the best win for the Conservatives since 1987.
“I frankly urge everyone on either side of what are, after 3.5 years, an increasingly arid argument, I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” Johnson said outside Downing Street.
“I know that after five weeks, frankly, of electioneering, this country deserves a break from wrangling, a break from politics and a permanent break from talking about Brexit.”
Labour had its worst election defeat since 1935.
Johnson’s landslide Conservative win marked the ultimate failure of opponents of Brexit who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.
Emboldened by victory, Johnson addressed opponents of Brexit directly.
“I want to speak also to those who did not vote for us, or for me, and who wanted and perhaps still want to remain in the EU,” he said. “I want to you know that we in this One Nation Conservative government will never ignore your good and positive feelings of warmth and sympathy towards the nations of Europe.”
“Because now is the moment, precisely as we leave the EU, to let those natural feelings find renewed expression in building a new partnership which is one of the great projects for next year,” he said, adding that the he wanted to work with the EU as “friends and sovereign equals”.
But Brexit is far from over.
He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in just 11 months, while also negotiating another trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s $2.7 trillion economy. After Jan. 31, Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 EU states.
This transition period can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend it beyond the end of 2020.
GRAPHIC-Live election results tmsnrt.rs/2r0WtJp
Additional reporting by Sarah Young, William Schomberg, James Davey and Andy Bruce; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones