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15.12.2019 Europe

Labour stronghold mourns defeat while Conservatives prepare for new era

By Jan van der Made - RFI
REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
LISTEN DEC 15, 2019
REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged voters in Britain to put behind them years of bitter divisions over the country's EU membership. He promised to use his overwhelming election victory to get the UK out of the EU by the end of January.

Meanwhile, in Islington, one of London's remaining Labour strongholds and constituency of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, people are angry and disappointed.

“I don't know what's going to happen,” said Mariama, a woman from Paris who came to London to work as a marketing manager.

“I think I will be able to stay in the country. I have a UK settlement (status). I applied for it, so as long as I am working here, I think I'm going to stay,” she told RFI in front of a supermarket in Islington.

But she said she feared that Brexit would bring woe for the UK's economic situation.

“Hopefully the country won't be impacted in a negative way,” she added.

Rudderless bickering
In his first speech after his election victory, Johnson, whose Conservative party surged to their best result for three decades on Thursday, vowed to remove Britain from the EU by 31 January.

He also called for the country to move on after months of rudderless bickering over Brexit.

"I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin," he said, a few hours after visiting Queen Elizabeth II to be reappointed prime minister.

Jemma, who was in the bustling Chapel Market in Islington with her young son, said she was angry about Labour's defeat.

“A complete and utter disappointment,” she added. “I I don't agree with Brexit, I don't support it.

"I am disappointed and worried for the future of the country, and I'm worried for our children.

Biggest majority
But in the Conservative camp, optimism rules. The Tories won 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, the biggest majority since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

“I think it's fantastic,” said Colin Dent, as he enjoyed the first rays of sunshine  breaking through over Chapel Market after a day of drizzle.

He said that he comes from a traditional Conservative family with roots in Islington. “My father was from a poor family but he also voted Conservative.

"Corbyn was lucky that he won at least his own constituency. But the rest of the country: I'm very, very pleased indeed,” he grinned.

Complete surprise
Corbyn's Labour party suffered its worst result since 1935, forcing Corbyn to announce he would be stepping down.

“I don't really understand Brexit," said Jemma. “I never really understood it. Why do so many people want Brexit? I don't know anybody that does.”

The election result came for her as a complete surprise. “They seems to be a vast majority that does understand Brexit, because the vote has shown that that's what they want …” she lamented.

Parliament will reconvene on Tuesday and Johnson is expected to publish legislation before Christmas needed to ratify the Brexit deal he agreed with Brussels in October.

This should be passed by January but Britain and the EU still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement, a process that officials have warned could take years.