Pro-EU party wins parliamentary seat in British by-election

Newly elected Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney speaks on stage after winning her seat in Richmond, south-west London, on Dec 2, 2016.
Newly elected Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Sarah Olney speaks on stage after winning her seat in Richmond, south-west London, on Dec 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - A pro-European Union Liberal Democrat candidate won a parliamentary seat previously held by Prime Minister Theresa May's ruling Conservative Party on Friday (Dec 2), in a vote that turned into a protest against Brexit.

Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney won the constituency in south west London having promised to vote against triggering formal divorce talks with the EU if parliament is given a say, overturning the Conservative's 23,000-vote majority from 2015.

Ms Olney said the residents of the Richmond Park and North Kingston area had sent "a shockwave" through the Conservative government as it works to formally begin Britain's divorce talks with the EU before the end of March next year.

"Our message is clear: we do not want a 'hard Brexit'; we do not want to be pulled out of the Single Market; and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win," Ms Olney said in a speech after her victory was announced.

Ms Olney beat previous incumbent Zac Goldsmith, who supported Britain's plan to leave the EU, winning 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith's 18,638. He ran as an independent candidate after quitting the Conservative Party over the government's decision to expand nearby Heathrow Airport.

The Conservative Party, which has a slender majority in parliament, did not field a candidate to oppose Mr Goldsmith. It said in a statement that the result of the by-election did not change anything.

"The government remains committed to leaving the European Union and triggering Article 50 by the end of March next year,"a Conservative spokesman said on Friday.