British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the launch of his Conservative Party platform to claim that his is the only party in next month’s election that will complete the Brexit process.
“Unlike any other party standing in this election, we are going to get Brexit done,” he told supporters while waving his party’s printed platform, which was unveiled on Sunday.
Johnson said rivals – the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and others – would only bring more delay and eventually betray the will of voters as expressed in the 2016 vote in favour of leaving the European Union.
Labour has outlined ambitious and costly new proposals while the Conservative platform, only about half as long as Labour’s, takes a more limited view of what’s needed. Johnson repeated several times that making Brexit happen would “unleash” Britain’s potential.
Johnson spent more time ridiculing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn than offering details about the plans laid out in the party platform, poking fun repeatedly at Corbyn’s plan to remain neutral if a second referendum is held next year.
“Let’s go carbon-neutral by 2050 and Corbyn-neutral by Christmas,” he said to appreciative chuckles from the crowd.
Johnson promised to bring his Brexit deal back to Parliament before Christmas, with passage likely assured if the Conservatives win a majority in the December 12 vote. He said that would enable his government to get Britain out of the EU by the January 31 deadline while other parties would slow the process down for months or stop it altogether.
Brexit was the sole focus of his party’s platform loss. Johnson is trying to keep the focus on Brexit policy, while Corbyn’s Labour hopes people will look at a broader range of issues, including funding of the National Health Service and restoration of cuts in public services.
‘Sensible’ tax cuts and spending
The Conservatives, leading in most opinion polls and mindful of a series of problems that followed the party’s platform launch in 2017, took a cautious approach Sunday, declining to outline a rash of new programmes that might spawn controversy.
The manifesto does call for increased spending to recruit more police and nurses, and also a nationwide pothole repairing effort.
Johnson promised 3.5 billion pounds ($30bn) of “sensible” tax cuts and extra day-to-day spending.
“We won’t gamble with taxpayers’ money or this country’s economic future. That is why we have set out clear rules that will keep borrowing and debt under control,” finance minister Sajid Javid said in a document accompanying the launch.
What will it take for a smooth Brexit?
Labour was proposing “reckless plans and ideological experiments” that would hit investment in Britain, Javid said.
Under the Conservatives’ plans, day-to-day spending would rise by 2.9 billion pounds a year by the 2023-24 financial year, dwarfed by Labour’s 83 billion-pound planned rise as it promises to reverse a decade of tight spending controls on many services.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think-tank, said the spending proposals represented a move towards more funding for public services as a whole, but many areas would not feel much relief.
“Outside of schools and hospitals, there is not going to be much to go around,” he told BBC television. “A lot of the austerity…that we have seen over the last decade in things like justice, in things like local government, are pretty much baked in, if you take this manifesto at face value.”
The election manifesto also reiterated a proposal to increase investment – which is separate from day-to-day spending – by about 20 billion pounds a year.
‘Get Brexit done’
Johnson for the most part stayed on familiar ground, blaming the outgoing Parliament for the failure to make Brexit happen by the last deadline at the end of October.
The 2016 referendum, which saw 52 percent of British voters choose to break with Europe after decades of integration, was followed by difficult negotiations with the EU that eventually led to a divorce deal – but one that was rejected in Parliament and then renegotiated by Johnson.
The prime minister says that will change if his party wins a majority, because each of the party’s candidates has agreed to back the deal.
His repeated promise to “get Brexit done” will be much more difficult if he doesn’t win an outright majority as other parties plan to slow Brexit down – or halt it altogether.
Johnson revealed the party’s campaign plans at an event in the West Midlands, where the Conservatives hope to make inroads with traditional Labour Party voters unhappy with the opposition party’s Brexit stance.
Johnson called the election more than two years early in a bid for a parliamentary majority that would back his Brexit plan before the January 31 deadline.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs.