A wild day in post-Brexit UK

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British warships were sent to break through a French blockade, Scottish nationalists tried to break with the UK and working class voters in the North East broke with the Tories after voting for Labor for six decades.

Why is it important: It was just a day in the topsy-turvy reality of post-Brexit Britain.

  • Driving the news: Thursday was the UK’s first major election day since 2019, with ballot papers for Scottish and Welsh parliaments and local governments across England.

The polls have just closed in what Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called ‘the most important election of our lifetimes’.

  • Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party is certain to win, but an outright majority would bolster its calls for a rerun of the 2014 independence referendum, in which Scots voted 55% to 45% to stay in the UK.
  • Sentiment has changed since the 2016 Brexit vote, which Scots overwhelmingly opposed. The latest polls suggest another referendum would be a close affair, with the pro-independence camp promising a return to the EU if successful.
  • What to watch: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to block a second referendum, but if Sturgeon wins a majority he may feel the need to change his answer from ‘never’ to ‘not now’, says James Johnson, a former Downing Street pollster , in Axios. .

80 miles south of the Scottish border, in Hartlepool, Johnson’s Conservatives are poised to clinch a seat held by Labor since 1964.

  • A brick in the ‘red wall’ of Labour’s northern heartland, Hartlepool voted Brexit by a margin of 70% to 30%.
  • Johnson redrawn Britain’s political map by winning dozens of those seats in the 2019 “Brexit elections”. But losing Hartlepool in his first major electoral test would be a blow to new Labor leader Keir Starmer.
  • The Tories’ strong stance ahead of the election indicates that “this realignment, the Boris effect, is really about something much deeper than Brexit,” says Johnson, the pollster. “It’s about a fracture of values”, with Labor now seen as the metropolitan party. .
  • The big picture: Boris Johnson has bounced from crisis to crisis over the past year, but by beating the EU on vaccinations the Prime Minister has bolstered his own popularity and the cause of Brexit.

The aftermath of Brexit was less kind to Arlene Foster, who resigned as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland last week.

  • His Democratic Unionist Party backed Brexit but felt betrayed when Johnson struck a deal establishing a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
  • Brexit is among the factors heightening tensions in Northern Ireland, with violent scenes in Belfast last month evoking the era of The Troubles.

A scene few would have predicted is a showdown in the English Channel between two loyal allies.

  • How did it happen: French fishermen protesting post-Brexit restrictions on their access to waters around Jersey blocked the island’s main port this morning.
  • London then sent two warships to Jersey, a British territory. The French government, which had threatened to cut power to the island over what it sees as illegal fishing restrictions, responded with its own patrol boats.

Between the lines: Fishing rights gained major symbolic status in the fight against Brexit. Johnson has also long vowed that post-Brexit Britain will flex its muscles internationally.

  • But while the Daily Mail tabloid declared: ‘WE ARE READY FOR WAR’, that is not in question today.
  • By evening the boats had all retreated.
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