Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday called on Britain to move on from Brexit, after a resounding general election win that allows him to push his divorce deal with the EU through parliament.
“I urge everyone to find closure and let the healing begin,” he said outside 10 Downing Street after the final result was confirmed, giving his Conservatives an 80-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
The main opposition Labour Party, which slumped to its worst election showing since the 1930s, blamed “Brexit fatigue” for the result.
Johnson also recognised the effects on the public of more than three years of political deadlock and deepening division, after the landmark 2016 referendum on EU membership.
He called Thursday’s election to secure a parliamentary majority to enable him to take Britain out of the EU by the latest deadline of January 31 next year.
“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,” he said.
After campaigned on a platform to “Get Brexit Done”, Johnson struck a more conciliatory tone, recognising that defeated, pro-EU “remainers” were unlikely to let the issue drop.
He vowed he would “never ignore” their “good and positive feelings” towards Europe.
“Now is the moment, precisely as we leave the EU, to let those natural feelings find renewed expression,” he said, as Downing Street staff and party officials looked on.
A “new partnership” with Europe was the priority for the coming year, said Johnson. But he also noted that many voters were motivated by domestic issues, particularly the country’s state-run health care system.
“I believe, in fact I know, that the overwhelming priority of the British people now is that we should focus above all on the NHS [National Health Service],” he said.
Labour accused him during the campaign of wanting to sell off the free-care-for-all NHS in a post-Brexit deal with US President Donald Trump.
Both Johnson and Trump have denied the claim, and the prime minister promised the sector would receive “the biggest-ever cash boost”. Areas such as education would also be improved, he said.
“We are going to unite and level up, bringing together the whole of this incredible UK,” he added, vowing a new year of “prosperity and growth and hope”.