Election result: 52% of votes go to pro-referendum parties despite decisive victory for the Tories

Vote share split echoes ratio from 2016 referendum

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 13 December 2019 16:54 GMT
General election 2019: Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street

More than half of voters backed pro-referendum parties at the polls despite Boris Johnson’s decisive general election victory.

Analysis of election vote share reveals nearly 52 per cent supported parties in favour of a Final Say vote such as Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the SNP, compared with 47 per cent who supported Brexit-backing parties, such as the Tories and the DUP.

The split in vote share echoes the ratio of the 2016 Brexit referendum, where the Leave campaign scored a victory by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

It is also likely to reignite the debate about the UK’s electoral system, known as first-past-the-post, which means votes are wasted if they do not go to the winning candidate.

After a dramatic night, Mr Johnson hailed the result as an “overwhelming mandate” to deliver Brexit and promised the country there would be closure after the divisive discourse of the past three years.

But Professor Sir John Curtice, who led the team conducting the exit poll, explained that the Brexit picture was more complex.

Writing for BBC News, he said: “The Conservatives‘ success means that Britain will now leave the EU at the end of January. However, it seems unlikely to end the debate about Britain’s relationship with the EU.

“The country’s divisions over Brexit were exposed in the very different swings across the country.

“Meanwhile, at 47 per cent, fewer than half of voters backed the Conservatives or the Brexit Party – the parties in favour of leaving the EU without another referendum.

“This is a point to which opponents of Brexit are likely to point in the weeks and months to come.”

The UK is on course to leave the EU within weeks following Mr Johnson’s victory, fought on the central premise he would “get Brexit done”.

With an 80-strong Commons majority, the prime minister now has the clout to push his Brexit deal through parliament in good time. Opposition from pro-EU Tories has been wiped out, while Labour suffered a significant defeat at Mr Johnson’s hands.

Speaking outside Downing Street, Mr Johnson said it was time for the country to go through a period of “closure” after a divisive period since the European referendum in 2016.

He added: “I frankly urge everyone on either side of what are, after three-and-a-half years, a frequently arid argument, I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin.”

Meanwhile, the People’s Vote campaign conceded that a second referendum is no longer on the cards after a bruising night for advocates of another poll.

In a statement from the campaign outfit, it said it would “rebrand” in the new year to focus on pushing for a “fair deal for Britain” in the Brexit negotiations.

“The People’s Vote will now refocus its campaign to concentrate on vital social issues that this government must urgently prioritise in its Brexit negotiations,” the campaigners said.

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