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Johnson today on the campaign trail. Photo: Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be steaming toward the parliamentary majority he desperately desires to pass his Brexit deal and end the gridlock in Westminster.

Why it matters: Thursday’s vote is the culmination of three years of intense efforts to deliver Brexit, and to block it. The rocky road Johnson has plodded along since replacing Theresa May in July would become much smoother with a resounding electoral mandate.

Driving the news: This has been a brutal campaign fought by two leaders who are disliked and distrusted by broad swaths of the public.

  • Johnson has been accused of repeatedly misleading voters, while opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been charged with allowing anti-Semitism to fester within his Labour Party.
  • Opponents of Brexit now believe the only thing that can stop a Johnson majority is tactical voting, with voters selecting Labour or the fiercely anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats depending on which party is more likely to defeat the local Conservative candidate.

The latest polls:

  • Conservatives: 43% (+5 since election called in late October)
  • Labour: 33% (+7)
  • Lib Dems: 13% (-3)
  • Brexit: 3% (-7)
  • Greens: 3% (=)

Breaking it down: James Johnson, who ran Downing Street’s polling under Theresa May, gives the Conservatives a 75% chance of a parliamentary majority.

  • If they fall short, one scenario would see Labour form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.
  • That could put Corbyn into Downing Street and lead to second referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence, which voters rejected in 2014.

Numbers to watch: Johnson's bar for success is the 326 seats needed for a majority, though he might keep the top job if he falls just short.

  • Johnson, the pollster, adds that the prime minister is aiming to best the 330 seats David Cameron won in 2015. That would mark the biggest Conservative majority since 1992 and also constitute a triumph in his long-standing rivalry with Cameron, his old schoolmate.
  • Corbyn's survival as Labour leader will likely depend on denying the Conservatives a majority, Johnson says.
  • “There’s a real sense in Westminster that he’s keen to jump ship,” he notes, adding that it would likely be a managed transition within the party’s leftist faction: “Corbynism doesn’t die with Corbyn.”

The big picture: Johnson has based his campaign on the argument that if the U.K. can only “get Brexit done,” it will be able to move onto other things, including a great new trade deal with the U.S.

Reality check: Peter Westmacott, a former U.K. ambassador to Washington, says even if Johnson’s Brexit deal passes, there will be “numerous dramas throughout the course of 2020” as the U.K. negotiates its future trading relationship with the EU, while a U.S.-U.K. trade deal will take “years of hard bargaining."

  • “We’ve got an America-first, unilateralist, protectionist president of the United States. It’s not going to be easy,” he says.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.