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Johnson's win in UK election could lead to ‘softer’ Brexit: Experts

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party won a majority in Britain's Parliament. He says the victory gives him a mandate to navigate Britain's exit from the European Union.




The scale of the Conservative victory in Britain's election makes Britain's exit from the European Union all but inevitable but could lead to a softer split, analysts said on Friday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party secured its biggest majority in parliament since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s in Thursday's election.
The outcome should allow Johnson-a figurehead of the original 2016 EU membership referendum-to push his divorce deal with Brussels through parliament and take Britain out of the bloc on January 31.
But he still has to negotiate a new economic partnership with the European Union, which remains Britain's biggest trading partner, for businesses to continue operating smoothly on both sides of the Channel.
Failure to do so by the end of 2020 would push Britain into unchartered waters and have unknown repercussions for global markets and international trade.
Before the election, Johnson had to rely on hardline eurosceptic Conservative MPs in the European Research Group (ERG), who have been pressing him for a much looser trading relationship with Brussels.
"With a big majority, Boris Johnson can ignore ERG and go for a softer Brexit if he wishes," noted Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform (CER) think tank.
Despite Brexit dominating the election, there has been little scrutiny of Johnson's exit deal, which covers separation issues such as expatriate rights and Britain's financial settlement.
There has been even less discussion about the pros and cons of any future trade agreements, while Johnson himself has given mixed signals about what he wants to achieve.
"Johnson will have to decide whether to remain closely aligned with the EU or diverge sharply," said Mujtaba Rahman, of the Eurasia Group.
"Crucially, Johnson will not be beholden to the 20 hardline Brexiteers in the European Research Group."
Johnson had promised a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU-which would bring greater freedom from EU rules but more barriers and costs to trade.
But campaigning at a factory in northeast England this week, he sought to reassure workers.

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