As crude and simplistic as Boris Johnson’s election slogan may have been, the verdict of UK voters on Thursday was absolutely clear: it’s time to “get Brexit done”. And though it might not be the result that Brussels would have wanted, there’s no doubt some relief in European capitals today that Johnson’s Conservatives have at least won a convincing parliamentary majority. The result brings some clarity after three long years: MPs are likely to approve an EU withdrawal deal by the end of January, after which the next (admittedly, equally tortuous) phase of negotiations on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU can finally begin.
Brits on the losing side will be waking up this morning feeling dejected with the new, firmer course. Passions have run extremely high on this one (I for one, as an EU citizen living in the UK, had hoped for a course that keeps the UK tied more closely to the EU) but the time has surely come to accept that Brexit really does mean Brexit. Boris Johnson has long suffered from a credibility gap – now he’ll have no choice but to show us exactly what kind of Brexit he wants to get done.
Thursday will go down as one of the most fateful days in a year that has been chock-full of them. Beyond the UK, the US House judiciary committee prepared to impeach Donald Trump, while in Brussels, 26 EU leaders (all except Poland) embarked on perhaps the most ambitious collective reform in their history by pledging to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It feels as if all three of these major economies – the UK, US and EU – are now recoiling to their corners and tending to their own wounds. Just what kind of fighter emerges from each camp in 2020 will be fascinating (and possibly quite painful) to watch.