Boris Johnson promised a new vote on his Brexit deal by Christmas and a raft of funding pledges if the Conservatives win Britain’s general election, as he launched the party’s manifesto launch on Sunday.
The Prime Minister said a quick lawmakers’ vote on his withdrawal agreement, which was on the cusp of progressing through the Parliament before Johnson pulled it in favor of an election, would open a “new chapter” in Britain’s history and allow the country to leave the European Union by its current deadline of January 31.
“Do you want to wake up on Friday the 13th of December and find a nightmare on Downing Street? A Corbyn/Sturgeon coalition of chaos,” Johnson asked a crowd in the West Midlands during the launch event. “Let’s go for sensible, moderate, but tax-cutting, one-nation Conservative Government and take this country forwards.”
He criticized the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for pledging to stay neutral during a second referendum on Brexit, and frequently repeated his mantra to “get Brexit done” – but the opposition party warned his plan entails years of further trade negotiations with the EU and the United States.
Johnson also announced a “triple lock” on income tax, national insurance and VAT rates, alongside pledges for 20,000 new police officers and 50,000 extra nurses, an extra £1 billion for social care and an Australian-style points based immigration system.
The party’s manifesto elsewhere included a childcare program, and a pledge to scrap hospital parking charges. A £2 billion plan to fill potholes around the country is also promised, in a document Johnson hopes will help pave the road towards Downing Street.
But after a bumpy three years of setbacks over the issue of Europe, the party’s headline Brexit pledge dominated the unveiling.
The manifesto pledges not to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020, raising the prospect of a delayed no-deal split if a trading relationship cannot be agreed. Responding to the release, the Confederation of British Industry said that “the inconvenient truth remains: sustainable economic growth will be risked if there is a needless rush for a bare bones Brexit deal that would slow down our domestic progress for a generation.”
Johnson repeatedly insisted that spending increases are only feasible once Brexit is secured, and sought to portray the choice facing British voters as one between “out and out, retrograde and destructive socialism” and “sensible One Nation Conservatism.”
The document is more restrained in scope than the reformist agenda unveiled by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last week, which promised free broadband, a major house-building program and a hike in the minimum wage.
“This is the billionaires’ manifesto. They bought it. You’ll pay for it,” Corbyn tweeted during Johnson’s launch event, in keeping with his party’s economically populist campaign message. Earlier in the day, Labour announced a plan to pay compensation to millions of women born in the 1950s who missed out on state pension payouts when David Cameron’s government changed the pension age.
The chancellors of the two major parties had earlier clashed on their spending plans; Sajid Javid told Sky News on Sunday that Britons’ “spending, borrowing and debt would be out of control” under Labour’s vision – but his counterpart John McDonnell told the same network his party “would address the priorities, the real issues facing our community.”
The Prime Minister’s party is enjoying a healthy lead in opinion polls, though the range of predicted vote shares suggests a hung Parliament remains a possibility.
His newly proposed timetable to pass the withdrawal agreement would leave a matter of days between the election and Parliament’s break for Christmas.
It would be followed by more negotiations with the European Union over the future relationship between the two blocs, which Javid said could be achieved “by the end of next year.”