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Boris Johnson finally has something to smile about. Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images

LONDON — The U.K. will go to the polls with Brexit still in the balance, as Parliament cleared the way Tuesday evening for a snap general election on Dec. 12.

Why it matters: Prime Minister Boris Johnson stormed into office three months ago vowing to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, but was thwarted by a Parliament that remains hopelessly deadlocked amid the current political crisis. Johnson believes he can break that deadlock by winning a majority in December, but a loss could render him one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in history.

Catch up quick: Johnson attempted on Monday — following the EU's move to extend the Brexit deadline yet again, to Jan. 31 — to schedule a December election while leaving open a window to pass his Brexit plan before then.

  • After that attempt failed, he put his Brexit plan on ice and aligned with two fiercely anti-Brexit opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, who were also calling for a December vote.
  • Together they outflanked the Labour Party, which has been struggling in the polls amid a split over Brexit and under Jeremy Corbyn's unpopular leadership.
  • The latest: With the writing on the wall, Corbyn also backed a December election and the bill passed 438-20. Parliament is expected to dissolve next week to make way for the campaign.

Current polls (FT poll tracker):

  • Conservatives (35%), Labour (25%), Liberal Democrats (18%), Brexit Party (11%).
  • Regional parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have less support nationally but are also expected to win seats.

What to expect: Johnson will run as the man who'll make Brexit happen, aiming to win over pro-Brexit voters in the North of England who have historically backed Labour.

  • He needs to win seats in the Labour heartland to make up for losses in Scotland and greater London, where Brexit is unpopular.
  • The insurgent Brexit Party could take votes from both parties — Conservative voters who endorse a more hardline vision of Brexit, and Labour voters who want Brexit but don't want to vote Conservative.
  • The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have gained support (mostly at Labour's expense) on the back of their plan to block Brexit altogether.

Behind the scenes: Internal polling and focus groups have Downing Street feeling confident, a source briefed on the matter told Axios.

  • But the Conservatives were also flying high ahead of a snap general election in 2017 that ultimately proved disastrous for then-Prime Minister Theresa May.
  • Corbyn exceeded expectations in that election and has survived longer as opposition leader than most anticipated. Despite record-low approval ratings, he now has an opportunity to become prime minister.
  • If Labour loses, the party could soon be searching for a new leader and a new political identity.

The bottom line: Conventional wisdom in Westminster is that Johnson is likely to win, though perhaps not with the big majority some Conservatives are hoping for. But the U.K.'s recent political history suggests we should be prepared for the unexpected.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
6 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.