Bobby Smith, a political and fathers
PHOTO: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Bobby Smith, a political and fathers' rights activist and founder and leader of the 'Give Me Back Elmo' party, left, and Independent candidate Count Binface stand either side of Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson wait for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency count declaration at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Now playing
02:51
Boris Johnson's Conservative Party wins UK election
It
PHOTO: CNN
It's been a tumultuous year for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He was slow to implement a coronavirus lockdown in the UK, slow on PPE and slow on contact tracing. Meanwhile he struck a last-minute Brexit deal with the EU, Scotland's drive for independence is gaining momentum, and Johnson's personal life is adding more drama. CNN's Nic Robertson looks back at it all.
Now playing
03:30
A look back at Boris Johnson's tumultuous 2020
Boris Johnson announces a Brexit deal has been agreed with the European Union
PHOTO: UK Pool
Boris Johnson announces a Brexit deal has been agreed with the European Union
Now playing
01:45
Boris Johnson: We have completed the biggest trade deal yet
A man wearing an EU flag-themed beret and carrying an EU flag is seen on Whitehall in central London on December 11, 2020. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 10 vowed to go the "extra mile" for a Brexit trade deal but instructed his government to prepare for Britain to crash out of the European Union
PHOTO: Hollie Adams/AFP/Getty Images
A man wearing an EU flag-themed beret and carrying an EU flag is seen on Whitehall in central London on December 11, 2020. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 10 vowed to go the "extra mile" for a Brexit trade deal but instructed his government to prepare for Britain to crash out of the European Union's single market at the end of this year. (Photo by Hollie Adams/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
05:57
Look back at how Brexit unfolded
Travellers wait for trains on the concourse at King
PHOTO: Victoria Jones/PA/AP
Travellers wait for trains on the concourse at King's Cross station in central London, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Millions of people in England have learned they must cancel their Christmas get-togethers and holiday shopping trips. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that holiday gatherings can't go ahead and non-essential shops must close in London and much of southern England.
Now playing
02:49
Dozens of countries shut down their borders to travel as coronavirus cases surge
Video Thumbnail from Anna Stewart package about queues at Dover
PHOTO: CNN
Video Thumbnail from Anna Stewart package about queues at Dover
Now playing
03:09
No-deal Brexit looms as truck drivers queue for hours at port
PHOTO: Reuters
Now playing
01:57
UK and EU officials warn a no-deal Brexit is likely
Now playing
15:43
Sturgeon worries UK PM Johnson 'planning' on no-deal
screengrab fishing brexit vessle
PHOTO: CNN
screengrab fishing brexit vessle
Now playing
03:01
This is one of the biggest hurdles to a Brexit deal
A picture taken on January 30, 2020 shows a Union Jack during a protest against Brexit near the European Parliament in Brussels. - Britain
PHOTO: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images
A picture taken on January 30, 2020 shows a Union Jack during a protest against Brexit near the European Parliament in Brussels. - Britain's departure from the European Union was set in law on January 29, amid emotional scenes, as the bloc's parliament voted to ratify the divorce papers. After half a century of sometimes awkward membership and three years of tense withdrawal talks, the UK will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time (2300 GMT) on January 31, 2020. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
03:18
What could happen after EU launched legal action against UK
ireland brexit good friday agreement joe biden UK Robertson pkg intl ldn vpx_00000119.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
ireland brexit good friday agreement joe biden UK Robertson pkg intl ldn vpx_00000119.jpg
Now playing
02:53
Why this Irish town is supporting Joe Biden
Britain
PHOTO: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street on September 2, 2020, to attend Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons in central London for the first time since the summer recess. - The UK Parliament returned to work on September 1 with the governing Conservative Party having taking a summer of hits in the polls bringing them level with the main opposition Labour Party amid a series of embarrassing U-turns and economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
17:09
Fmr. negotiator: UK decision risks 'violence in N. Ireland'
PHOTO: AFP
Now playing
01:03
Boris Johnson: Signs of a second coronavirus wave in Europe
PHOTO: 10 Downing Street
'I was too fat,' UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says
Now playing
01:23
'I was too fat,' UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says
A screenshot of Alexander Temerko taken from Nic Robertson
PHOTO: CNN
A screenshot of Alexander Temerko taken from Nic Robertson's report into the proximity between Russian oligarchs and the UK's Conservative Party.
Now playing
04:31
Russian influence in UK under the spotlight
PHOTO: WPA Pool/No. 10 Downing Street/Getty Images
Now playing
03:56
Scotland's Covid-19 approach is fueling independence movement
(CNN) —  

When he’s done celebrating his thumping election victory, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going to realize he’s got a problem – some constituent parts of the United Kingdom are heading in different directions.

While Johnson’s Conservative Party punched huge holes in Labour’s red wall in the north of England and Wales with a dominant performance in England outside London, it fell back in Scotland – in a set of results that reverse surprising gains from 2017 and may set a constitutional time bomb ticking.

Related: Full UK election results

Across the water in Northern Ireland, the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party leader in Westminster Nigel Dodds, who propped up the minority Conservative government after its disastrous 2017 election lost his seat in North Belfast. Another member of his party also lost in a victory for voters who wanted to remain in the European Union.

Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party who has already said her party’s strong gains provides a mandate for a second independence referendum, are on a collision course.

That’s because the new Conservative majority suggests that Brexit is now a certainty, so Scotland will be dragged out of the European Union against its will.

This is a scenario that is a recipe for antagonism between the SNP and London – that could degenerate into the most brittle north-south relationship since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in the 1980s.

“Boris Johnson has a mandate to take England out of the EU. He must accept I have a mandate to offer an alternative future” for Scotland,” Sturgeon told the BBC.

Independence pressure

Politically, Scotland and England will look like entirely different countries. That will create huge new pressure from the SNP for another independence referendum.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that everyone voting for the SNP wants to leave the UK. Given Labour’s eclipse in Scotland – a former heartland and the failure of the Liberal Democrats – the SNP may have been a refuge for homeless Remain voters.

Areas that voted against independence – for instance, Stirling in the country’s central belt – went for the SNP this time. In this seat, there was a strong suggestion that tactical voting by Labour supporters who switched to the SNP helped unseat Conservative candidate Stephen Kerr who won by only 148 votes in 2017.

The SNP wave crashed across the entire country from the former shipbuilding areas around Glasgow – which once underwrote generations of Labour governments in London, to the affluent suburbs of Aberdeen, the oil capital in the northeast.

If independence was a political decision alone – it would probably be a slam dunk. But many of the economic concerns that prompted Scotland to turn down a chance to go it alone in the independence referendum by a 10% margin in 2014 have not yet been answered.

And Johnson, who after all leads the Conservative and Unionist Party, has said he will not grant Scotland another referendum and his big majority means he won’t have to.

But if the SNP follows its bumper night on Thursday with another landslide in the elections for the Scottish parliament in 2021 – probably on an independence vote platform, the tensions between Scotland and London could become unsustainable.

Still, the SNP has been in power for more than a decade and sooner or later all parties become tired, scandal prone or lose their grip on their voters. So it’s not impossible that this SNP blitz on represents a high water mark for the independence movement.

Northern Ireland turmoil

A big Tory majority will also send shockwaves through the tortured politics of Northern Ireland. Many unionists see Johnson’s Brexit deal as a betrayal and believe it cuts off the province from the rest of the United Kingdom by effectively drawing a border down the middle of the Irish Sea.

There are also fears that Brexit will revive the buried ghosts of the Troubles — the decades of sectarian violence between republicans and loyalists.

The Tory win will also fuel speculation that in the years to come the ties to the mainland among younger, more pro-European unionist voters will begin to fade. South of the border. Ireland will remain in the European Union.

Northern Ireland has played an outsized role in Westminster politics for the last few years given the DUP’s role in keeping the Conservatives in power. Johnson’s large majority means he will be able to all but ignore the political forces at play there now.

But whatever happens after Brexit – be it possible adverse economic consequences of Britain leaving the EU or the tensions in Northern Ireland, Johnson will be responsible for dealing with what comes next.

This delicate moment, testing the age-old ties between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom means that it’s still far from certain that Johnson can keep the union together.