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Boris Johnson’s big win may ‘get Brexit done’ but damaging fights loom

Boris Johnson has broken Britain’s deadlock over leaving the European Union with a dramatic election win but the victory could lead to new and potentially damaging confrontations with both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson, with his trademark floppy white hair and a reputation for making off-colour remarks, was dismissed by opponents — including many in his own party — as untrustworthy and something of a buffoon. But as the results began trickling in early Friday morning, it was clear his victory had dramatically redrawn the U.K.’s electoral map.

“What happens with elections is if you win, all the sins get washed away. He is at the pinnacle of his power,” said conservative commentator Craig Oliver,  who served as communications director for former Conservative prime minister’s David Cameron.

The Conservatives are on track to take at least 364 seats, giving Johnson’s party a healthy majority and handing the Labour Party its worst defeat in more than a generation.

“Just utterly devastating,” tweeted well-known Labour commentator Owen Jones,  “Brexit just smashed us. Keeping together an electoral coalition of “Remainers” and “Leavers” as the country bitterly divided just became impossible.”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn waits for the General Election results of the Islington North constituency to be announced. His party lost big on Thursday night. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke only briefly after being proclaimed the winner in his riding of Islington North.   

In his speech, Corbyn said while he would be stepping down as leader, it might not happen right away. Corbyn suggested he planned to stick around through what could amount to a long a transition period.

Labour loses big in longtime strongholds

The Conservatives made deep inroads into traditionally Labour seats, especially in northern England,  as the vote appeared to polarize over Brexit.

“I want to thank Boris,” said winning Conservative candidate Ian Levy, whose surprise win in Blyth Valley early in the evening signalled the kind of night it would be for Labour.

No Tory had been elected there in almost 80 years. 

Nearby in Sedgefield, the seat of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair swung Conservative in a stunning upset.  And in Bassetlaw, a previously safe Labour seat near Sheffield, the Labour vote utterly collapsed.

“Brexit had been this dividing issue since the referendum was called and it seemed that [Brexit] cut across the traditional Labour-Conservative, left-right divide,” said Tim Durrant, associate director of the Institute for Government in London.

“People voted in terms of the party’s Brexit policy, as opposed to party loyalty.”

Scotland ‘flatly’ rejects Johnson’s plan, SNP leader says

But just as vast swaths of rural England turned Conservative blue, Scotland was painted with the yellow colour of the Scottish National Party. 

The SNP is on track to win to win an unprecedented 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats — a 13-seat increase. The major gains position Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as a major voice of opposition as Johnson moves forward with plans to break away from Europe. 

Scotland strongly backed the bid to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates as she hears her party has unseated Britain’s Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

“Boris Johnson’s argument to Scotland has been flatly and completely rejected,”  Sturgeon told the BBC in the early hours of Friday morning.   

“There is no doubt that I have a mandate to offer people that choice.”

Johnson is on the record as saying he will not agree to another referendum so soon after the last vote in 2014, which sets up an epic confrontation between two leaders with large majorities behind them.

The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence saw 55 per cent of voters cast their ballots to stay in the U.K. That vote was sanctioned by Westminster, whereas a future unsanctioned vote would be legally dubious.    

But Johnson, who will face major decisions and negotiations around Brexit even after securing his majority, will be in a difficult position politically if Sturgeon moves toward holding another referendum.

‘Northern Ireland is the one to watch’

The other major upset of the night came in Northern Ireland, where parties that favour strong ties with the rest of Britain were overtaken by those with more nationalist leanings.

“Northern Ireland is the one to watch,” said Durrant, noting that the election of 11 nationalist MPs there marks the first time ever that so-called unionist parties have been in the minority there.

“Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and there’s been a lot of disappointment in Northern Ireland about the way the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) supported the Conservative government.” 

If Scotland votes for a referendum, Durrant said it will no doubt intensify debate in Northern Ireland about whether its future lies inside or outside of the U.K.

‘We don’t really know him fully,’ analyst says

Johnson — a former journalist who has been in or around politics virtually his entire life — has long faced criticism for adopting and then shedding political positions with little apparent intellectual discomfort.

His hard opposition to Europe during the Brexit campaign surprised many Conservatives, as did his intense push over the last few months to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.    

Durrant said with a comfortable majority behind him and the need to appeal to all those first time Conservative voters,  Johnson’s thinking may yet evolve again.

“The thing with Boris Johnson is that we don’t really know him fully,”  he told CBC News in an interview.   

Voters headed out in dreary weather Thursday to cast their ballots in a rare December election. (Carl Recine/Reuters)

“He was London mayor for a long time and [London] is socially liberal and anti-Brexit.  And he took a different tone as mayor to some of his stances while as a conservative backbencher in Theresa May’s government and now PM.”

In the immediate future, Johnson is expected to assemble his MPs and to have a modest cabinet shuffle as early as Monday. Brexit legislation is expected to go for a vote before the end of January.

While most of London remained a Labour stronghold, Johnson’s win — and the promise of movement on Brexit — was taken as positive in the financial district, with the pound trading higher.

There was no such rejoicing, though, from Labour backers and anti-Brexit campaigners. The Labour supporting Daily Mirror put a big photo of Johnson on the front page with the caption: “The Nightmare before Christmas.”

For conservatives, however, a big majority and clear path ahead for Brexit is nothing short of a dream that only a few months ago seemed unattainable. 

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Gwen Stefani Sends Nick Jonas a Message for When He Replaces Her on ‘The Voice’: ‘Get Ready to Be Inspired’

Gwen Stefani Sends Nick Jonas a Message for When He Replaces Her on ‘The Voice’: ‘Get Ready to Be Inspired’ | Entertainment Tonight

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‘Get used to it’: U.S. Open champ Bianca Andreescu is already hungry for more

Just as Bianca Andreescu’s post-match press conference was coming to a close Saturday evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium after her historic U.S. Open victory, media were asked to stay in their seats.

The room was packed with reporters from around the world — being asked to stay around at the close of a press conference isn’t all that common.

Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, was then called forward to the front of the room. He was also presented a trophy. For nearly 30 years Bruneau has been with Tennis Canada — he’s been with Andreescu for two years.

Never had Bruneau experienced something like this. Obviously, neither had Andreescu.

Both Andreescu and Bruneau stood there, smiling with their trophies as a throng of photographers snapped away. Then someone noticed Bruneau holding his trophy the wrong way — he spun it around nervously.

WATCH | U.S. Open champion Andreescu receives superstar treatment:

Bianca Andreescu’s historic U.S. Open victory turns the Canadian teenager into a full-blown celebrity. 2:20

“I’m not used to this,” he joked.

“Get used to it,” Andreescu fired back.

It was a quick little moment that so perfectly summarized the Canadian teenager’s fighting spirit.

She’s fearless on the court and equally as fearless when it comes to letting the world know about her goals when it comes to her tennis success.

WATCH | Andreescu’s coach on what comes next:

Sylvain Bruneau discusses the 19-year-old Canadian’s historic Grand Slam victory and looks ahead to what’s next for the burgeoning tennis star. 8:01

“At the beginning of the year, I wanted to crack the Top 100 but I guess I have to start setting my goals a bit higher,” Andreescu said, standing on top of the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan on Sunday.

“Let’s say, top three by the end of the year.”

WATCH | Andreescu on newfound stardom:

CBC News’ Greg Ross reports on how the Canadian tennis star is attempting to stay grounded after winning the U.S. Open. 2:13

There’s a long list of staggering numbers that jump out when considering Andreescu’s U.S. Open win.

Not only is she the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam, she’s the first-ever tennis player to win the U.S. Open in their main draw debut.

After knocking off eighth-ranked Serena Williams in the final, Andreescu ran her record against Top-10 players this season to a perfect 8-0 – against the best, she plays her best. She’s an astounding 45-4 on the season and has won 14 consecutive matches.

Andreescu is the first teenager to win a singles major title since Maria Sharapova did it in 2006 – she was born nine months after Williams claimed her first major title. By winning the U.S. Open on her fourth main-draw appearance at a major, Andreescu has tied the record for fastest to winning a major title.

She didn’t even watch last year’s women’s final and was ranked 210th after Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams.

“What a difference one year can make,” Andreescu said.

The Mississauga, Ont. native never lost belief despite referencing a number of challenges over the past couple of years – relationships and injuries were two things she said were holding her back.

“Last year wasn’t an easy period in my life,” Andreescu said. “I told myself to never give up. I persevered. I just kept believing in myself.”

WATCH | Emotional Andreescu reflects on historic victory:

Bianca Andreescu becomes the first Canadian in history to win a Grand Slam singles title with her straight-set victory over Serena Williams. 1:45

She turned to visualization and meditation to help her stay focused when things weren’t going her way — leaning on both heavily when Serena was surging and the crowd was roaring during the championship match.

“I really believed I could be at this stage. Since then I’ve been visualizing it every single day. I guess this visualization works.”

Andreescu’s championship tour is in full swing. On Monday, she hit up every major network morning show in America.

The 19-year-old walked onto ABC’s Live with Kelly and Ryan morning show, U.S. Open trophy in one hand, high-fives for the audience members with the other.

After setting down the trophy on the desk and being told by Kelly Ripa it might have to stay there, Andreescu had this response.

“I kind of want to keep this bad boy though,” she said, laughing.

She also had stops at NBC’s Today Show as well as Good Morning America.

“Last night before I went to bed, I just took a moment to be grateful because it wasn’t easy. I mean, I started playing tennis at the age of seven and ever since then I’ve been dreaming of this moment,” Andreescu told host Robin Roberts.

“I’m truly blessed right now.”

Andreescu returns to Toronto on Wednesday.

WATCH | Andreescu beats Williams to win U.S. Open:

Bianca Andreescu speaks to the press after her 6-3, 7-5 U.S. Open championship victory over Serena Williams. 1:01

There’s no flying under the radar anymore for Andreescu.

She’s a household name across Canada and has drawn praise and recognition from politicians to athletes to actors.  

It’s not only about her winning the U.S. Open, it’s how she did it and the way she carries herself off the court that has made Andreescu so likable.

While it would be easy for a 19-year-old to get lost in the bright lights of it all, Andreescu is remaining humble.

“I really never thought about being famous. My goal was to become No. 1 in the world. But the idea of fame never crossed my mind,” Andreescu said.

Two years ago, all she wanted to do was make enough money for her parents to travel with her on tour. After this victory worth $ 3.8 million US, her parents Maria and Nicu Andreescu, as well as family dog Coco, now have an all-expenses paid ride for the rest of Bianca’s playing career.

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Trump tells U.K. to divorce EU without a deal if they can’t ‘get it done’

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Britain should refuse to pay a $ 50 billion European Union divorce bill and “walk away” from Brexit talks if Brussels does not give ground.

Trump told the Sunday Times newspaper ahead of a state visit to Britain, which starts on Monday, that Britain’s next leader should send arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage to conduct EU talks.

Once Britain leaves the EU, which Trump said must happen this year, then he would go “all out” to agree to a trade deal.

“They’ve got to get it done,” he said in the interview. “They have got to get the deal closed.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May will step down shortly after this week’s Trump visit, having failed to win backing for the Brexit divorce deal she negotiated with the EU.

Trump said her successor should pursue a “no-deal” Brexit if he or she could not get more concessions from Europe by the end of October, when Britain is due to leave.

Trump said Theresa May’s successor should pursue a ‘no-deal’ Brexit if he or she could not get more concessions from Europe. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

“If they don’t get what they want, I would walk away,” he said. “If you don’t get a fair deal, you walk away.”

The 13 candidates already in the leadership race are split between those willing to accept a “no-deal” and those opposed.

In the “no deal” camp are former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whom Trump praised in an interview with the Sun newspaper on Friday, along with former Brexit minister Dominic Raab and interior minister Sajid Javid.

Trump said the United States could work “very, very quickly” on a trade deal if Britain was not constrained by a transition period agreed with Brussels.

Concerns about U.S. agricultural standards

The U.S. ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, said any such trade deal would include agriculture and healthcare.

“In a trade deal, all things that are traded will be on the table,” he told the BBC on Sunday. Asked if that included healthcare, he replied: “I would think so.”

Concerns have been raised in Britain about accepting U.S. agricultural standards, notably chlorine-washed chicken, and about opening up its state-funded healthcare system to U.S. companies as the price of a trade deal.

“American products would come over, and be allowed to come over,” Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “You give the British people a choice, if they like it they can buy it, if they don’t want it, they do not have to buy it.”

Trump backs Farage 

Trump said it was a mistake for the Conservatives not to involve Farage, the Brexit Party leader, in negotiations with Brussels after his success in European Parliament elections.

“I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer — he is a very smart person,” Trump said. “They won’t bring him in but think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”

Farage, who led the unofficial campaign to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum, wants to leave the bloc without any agreement.

His new Brexit Party swept to victory in the United Kingdom’s European parliament election last month, prompting him to demand a seat at Brexit negotiations.

However, none of the candidates seeking to replace May are expected to offer an olive branch to a longstanding rival who has the potential to split the right-wing vote in Britain.

Trump also said he would have “to know” Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn before authorizing U.S. intelligence to share its most sensitive secrets with a hard-left government.

He said Britain must be careful not to jeopardize intelligence-sharing by letting Chinese firm Huawei into its 5G mobile phone network.

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