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Despite massive victory, Boris Johnson faces a battle for Britain

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured after delivering a statement at Downing Street after winning the general election, in London, Britain, December 13, 2019.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured after delivering a statement at Downing Street after winning the general election, in London, Britain, December 13, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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Strong show by SNP and Irish nationalists raises concerns about independence movements gaining momentum

Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be revelling in his mighty election victory but the results in Scotland and Northern Ireland have hinted at battles ahead in trying to keep the U.K. together.

Strong performances by Scottish and Irish nationalists in Thursday’s snap vote will increase concerns about independence movements gaining momentum north of England’s border and in Northern Ireland.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 48 seats, almost matching its performance in the 2015 election and setting up a showdown between Mr. Johnson and its combative leader Nicola Sturgeon.

 

Ms. Sturgeon said it had been an “exceptionally good night” for her party, leaving Scotland and the rest of Britain on “divergent paths”.

“I accept that Boris Johnson after this election has a mandate to take England out of the European Union, but he does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union,” she said, adding she would push for another independence referendum after losing a 2014 vote.

“I have a mandate, a renewed, refreshed, strengthened mandate, to offer people in Scotland the choice of a different future.

“I don't pretend everybody who voted SNP yesterday will necessarily support independence, but there is a clear endorsement Scotland should get to decide our future and not have it decided for us,” she said.

Ms. Sturgeon is expected to write to Mr. Johnson before Christmas to formally demand Holyrood — the seat of the Scottish government — be given the power to hold a second independence vote. But Mr. Johnson’s Conservative government is unlikely to accept her demands.

Demands by nationalists

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly told the BBC that Thursday’s result was not a mandate for a second independence vote. “The majority of votes in Scotland went to parties that are pro-union,” he said. “The 2014 referendum was meant to be a once in a generation referendum.” In that poll, Scotland — a country of 5.4 million — voted by a margin of 55% to 45% to stay in the U.K.

Despite massive victory, Boris Johnson faces a battle for Britain

Mr. Johnson is also facing the serious but less urgent threat of keeping Northern Ireland part of the U.K., in the wake of demands by nationalists for a united Ireland. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against Brexit in the shock 2016 referendum.

Nationalists now — for the first time since the partition of Ireland in 1921 — hold more seats in the British Parliament than those who want to stay part of the U.K.

The hardline Democratic Unionist Party, which previously held most Northern Irish seats in the British Parliament, had a tough night, losing deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Unionists have also warned that Mr. Johnson’s Brexit deal creates a customs border down the Irish Sea, which they fear nationalists will exploit to pull Northern Ireland away from London's orbit.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:17:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/despite-massive-victory-boris-johnson-faces-a-battle-for-britain/article30300656.ece

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