OPN 191211 Britain_Brexit_Election-1576065096781
Britain goes to the polls on Thursday. These are the most keenly watched general elections in a generation Image Credit: AP

The future course of the United Kingdom (UK) is being charted as voters head to the polls in a general election. Throughout the six-week campaign, Conservative party leader Boris Johnson has consistently said that Brexit is the critical issue facing British voters. His nation’s divorce from the European Union (EU), he added, can be achieved by January 31 if Tories are returned with a majority.

That lack of a majority, combined with an opposition that was united in preventing the UK from leaving without a Brexit deal, resulted in political paralysis at Westminster: Nothing could be done, the national agenda was crippled by Brexit and the running of the nation’s affairs became focused on a single issue.

While most in the international community would prefer if the majority of the UK voters in the 2016 referendum had decided to remain an integral part of the EU, that referendum result — no matter how flawed the campaign — has to be ultimately respected. At least now Britain can leave the EU with a deal in place.

When Britons enter polling booths, they will be deciding just how compassionate their nation will be in the coming years. The National Health Service is chronically underfunded, its care levels at all-time lows, its staff demoralised. That decimation has occurred under a decade of Conservative rule

- Gulf News

The election, however, won’t be the end of Brexit. No, there is much work that must still be done, hammering out a free-trade agreement, making sure British laws remain generally aligned with those of Brussels and determining the future relation between UK and EU.

There is a reality too that while Brexit is the dominant issue in the campaign, it is certainly not the only one.

When Britons enter polling booths, they will be deciding just how compassionate their nation will be in the coming years. The National Health Service is chronically underfunded, its care levels at all-time lows, its staff demoralised. That decimation has occurred under a decade of Conservative rule.

A vote for the Tories would be an act of faith that a new administration would reverse course. Police numbers have been cut and while both Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have pledged to restore numbers, the cuts were part of the hard-hitting austerity programmes implemented under the Conservatives.

Voters in Scotland will have every reason to cast their ballots with one eye on the independence of their nation that seeks to return quickly to the EU.

And in Northern Ireland too, voters will be casting their votes with one eye on a future border referendum, with the Brexit agreement that Johnson had reached with Brussels giving the province a separate status distinct from the rest of a very disunited United Kingdom.