Certainty and moderation. These were the words I had many times at the CBI dinner on the 5th of December when businesses talked about what they wanted from the General Election.
Now it’s all over, what can business expect?
It’s clear from the result that the Prime Minister has a mandate to take the UK out of the EU at the end of January on the basis of his deal. That will come as a relief to those who wanted to see that certainty. No more unpredictable votes in the Commons and no more lack of direction. In the short term, certainty has been provided.
In the longer term though, there are two issues that will continue to dominate UK politics over the next year. The first issue is over what sort of deal we will have at the end of next year. The EU won’t be that moved by the election result; they will want to protect the single market and they can’t afford to give the UK a deal that retains all the benefit of EU membership pour encourager des autres. Nevertheless, given the close alignment that already exists between the UK and EU it should be a substantially easier negotiation that trying to create a deal from scratch, which would take years.
The second issue is the future of the UK itself. For the first time, Northern Ireland returned more Nationalist MPs than Unionists. Belfast itself came within a thousand votes of not returning a single Unionist. In Scotland, the SNP ran a campaign specifically to call for a second independence referendum. The Conservatives ran a campaign based on opposing it: The result? The SNP had 48 seats and the Conservatives six. It’s difficult to argue then that there is a valid mandate for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal while denying that there is one for Scotland’s First Minister. There is a collision course there that’s difficult to predict. With Welsh opinion polls returning figure of between 25-30% of voters in favour of independence the UK’s future is uncertain.
What then of moderation?
I think people are fed up of bickering and poison and want to move away from it. There is an opportunity then to govern by healing wounds. Having met Boris Johnson a few times, I can say that it’s difficult to predict what he might do. Sometimes he can be liberal, sometimes very right wing. What is clear though is that he can govern without having to rely on any particular group within the Conservative party. The big question is what sort of politician will he be. Left, right or centre, only time will tell.