The election was framed around what to do about Brexit, which has now hung over Britain for more than three years since the country narrowly voted to leave the European Union.
It was not so much a matter of deciding whether the nation was “for” or “against” Brexit — polls now show a slight majority opposes Brexit — as the more practical matter of how to proceed.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, worked to channel public exasperation, promising the quickest possible resolution and painting the opposition as likely to delay things further.
The Labour Party’s message was more muddled. It offered to negotiate a softer Brexit, but also to put that option to a new national referendum and respect the public’s decision either way. It wasn’t quite a pro-Brexit or an anti-Brexit stance. This was due in part to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s personal leanings in favor of Brexit, as well as his desire not to split the Labour coalition, which mostly opposes Brexit but includes a big chunk of voters who voted to leave the European Union.
Labour, perhaps knowing this wasn’t a Brexit message to rally the nation, tried to refocus the election on other issues, such as the fate of the National Health Service, on which Labour tends to significantly outperform the Conservatives in polls.
In the end, Mr. Johnson’s strategy worked. His party consolidated the half of the electorate that voted to leave the European Union, breaking away much of Labour’s base.
The result was not so much a groundswell of support and enthusiasm for Brexit itself as for Mr. Johnson’s message that Brexit was going to happen, so the country might as well get it over with.
(2) The big loser was Jeremy Corbyn, who will own Labour’s historic defeat
This election will deliver Labour’s smallest share of Parliament since 1935, smaller even than its minority during the era of Margaret Thatcher. Though Brexit will almost surely be the biggest consequence of this election, Labour’s historic defeat is the biggest political story.
The primary owner of that loss is not the movement to remain in the European Union (which is popular), left-wing politics (also popular), or the Labour Party as a whole, but its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr. Corbyn is one of the most unpopular figures in British life. His national disapproval rating, 61 percent, is about triple his national approval rating, 21 percent — meaning that he is disliked three-to-one, a staggering figure.
He is also broadly seen as on the opposite side of his own party electorate on the issue defining this election and his nation’s future: Brexit.
And consider these poll numbers. Labour’s major non-Brexit policy positions are wildly popular. Polls show strong support for Labour’s plans to raise taxes on the wealthy, nationalize the railways, put workers on corporate boards, and so on.
This should be a popular party. But Mr. Corbyn failed to capitalize on that, and may have been a severe liability.
“People are more likely to trust Boris Johnson (34 percent) with the economy than Jeremy Corbyn (16 percent),” he wrote — an astonishing statistic given the popularity of Mr. Corbyn’s economic proposals.
That trend shows up again and again in polls. Voters express discomfort with the Conservatives’ stewardship of the National Health Service, to which they have imposed steady cuts. But one poll found that voters trust Mr. Corbyn even less with the service, with only 36 percent saying Mr. Corbyn would best run it, to 46 percent in favor of Mr. Johnson.
Consider that Mr. Corbyn also lost seats to the Scottish National Party, underscoring the degree to which voters seemed to be motivated by a desire to vote against Labour.
(3) Brexit is now all but certain to happen
There were two things holding Britain back from actually going through with Brexit.
No single plan — which would also be a vision for what sort of Brexit to have — was popular enough to win a majority of votes in Parliament. And there was too much ambiguity in popular sentiment, which has seemed to waffle between slight majorities for and against Brexit, to push it through.
This vote potentially resolves both of those issues.
The size of the new Conservative majority in Parliament will make it harder for any one faction, such as the Brexit hard-liners, to block Mr. Johnson. And Mr. Johnson will simply have more options for finding a majority to support his plan.
Maybe most of all, the vote will be taken as a resounding public mandate for Brexit and for Mr. Johnson’s plan in particular, which is largely the same plan as that of his predecessor, Theresa May.
That will not necessarily be an accurate perception. The vote was framed mostly as expressing a desire to get the process over, which doesn’t resolve that the public found every actual plan to be objectionable. But so much of the now three-year-plus Brexit drama has turned around political interpretations of popular sentiment and the strange ways that the electoral system channels that sentiment, rather than on popular will itself (which, as we’ve mentioned, leans slightly in favor of remaining in the European Union). So this vote may be enough to resolve the issue in the minds of political leaders.
The European Union will also read this as a mandate and help to push things through, as it also very much wants to move on from endless Brexit dramas.
The big problems with Brexit itself still remain. There are multiple distinct plans, none of which enjoys sweeping public or political support. And each of which is expected to bring significant and long-term economic pain. But this vote may be enough to overcome those issues, if not actually resolve them.
(4) Scottish independence? Maybe, but maybe not
The sweep by the Scottish National Party is a big deal, effectively cutting off the two main pan-British parties, Labour and Conservative, from Scotland.
But we would urge some caution around predictions that this will bring Scottish independence.
It’s true that Scottish voters overwhelmingly oppose leaving the European Union. And they rejected a 2014 independence referendum in part on the arguments that staying in the United Kingdom offered greater stability and a surer place in the European Union — two arguments that no longer apply.
But the S.N.P. victory might not necessarily reflect, or create, a surge of support for Scottish independence.
For one, voters may have simply chosen the party because they saw it as more attractive than the alternatives, not because they have changed their minds on independence. The Labour and Conservative leaders are both unpopular, especially in Scotland, so this might be more about their decline than S.N.P.’s rise. And the Scottish National Party has a clear position against Brexit, which the other parties didn’t. Maybe most importantly, opinion polls show that Scots are still against independence, albeit by slightly narrower margins than they were in 2014.
Predictions of Scottish independence may also be slightly overheated because many of those predictions came on Thursday night, when exit polls projected a much bigger S.N.P. win. The actual results show a more modest (but still significant) S.N.P. sweep.
If and when Brexit happens, and Scots find themselves ripped from the European Union that they so cherish, this could all change. Certainly the Scottish National Party is now in a better position to capitalize on any rise in Scottish independence sentiment. But even then, huge procedural hurdles would remain. For one, Mr. Johnson would have to allow an independence vote to go ahead. In all things, the status quo is usually the safer bet.
(5) If Brexit goes relatively smoothly, it’s Boris Johnson’s Britain for the foreseeable future
This kind of public mandate usually grants two things: the political space, and the time in office, for a leader to bring his or her vision for the country to fruition.
That most likely means a more nationalist, inward-looking Britain, with significantly tighter controls on immigration.
The realities of post-Brexit economics are likely to be harsh. Britain will have to form new trade agreements with just about every country on earth, a process likely to take many years and with Britain negotiating from a position of urgent weakness.
The likelihood of significant deregulation also hangs in the air, at a time when years of austerity have already greatly weakened the social safety net and the National Health Service is struggling under budget cuts.
The irony is that Labour’s policies are actually more popular. But, as it is often said, elections have consequences, and this is one of them.
(6) Be skeptical of anyone claiming clear lessons for the U.S. election
With the American Democratic primary in full swing and the presidential election looming, there will be a natural desire to draw lessons, but we’d urge caution there.
There are already claims that Mr. Corbyn’s loss shows that Democrats will suffer if they select a candidate who is too far left.
But Mr. Corbyn’s left-wing policies were popular. It was Mr. Corbyn himself who was deeply unpopular, to a degree that no Democratic candidate comes close to matching. There is simply no clear parallel.
And there is no equivalent in the United States to Brexit, an issue that, in addition to defining this election, has scrambled party politics and lines of political identity.
If anything, the trend in the United States has been the opposite, toward ever-clearer lines of partisan polarization and identification.
There is much in common across the United States and United Kingdom, particularly in the era of right-wing populist backlash. But this particular election was driven by forces, events and personalities that are particular to this country at this moment.