Brexit Bulletin: Ten Days

Adam Blenford
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Brexit Bulletin: Taking Back Control

Days to General Election: 10

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What’s Happening? With the clock ticking to next week’s U.K. election, terror and trains are higher up the agenda than Brexit.

After a weekend dominated by grief for the victims of Friday’s London Bridge terror attack, and arguments over who was to blame, the Brexit debate feels a long way away. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both attended a vigil in London this morning to commemorate Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25.

Yet 10 days from now British voters will have to make a choice that will indelibly shape the U.K.’s divorce from the European Union. A new ICM poll on Monday confirmed that the election campaign has tightened — the survey put Johnson’s Conservatives on 42%, with Labour on 35%. That’s in the zone pollsters feel could herald another hung Parliament, where no party wins an outright majority.  And that could be the difference between Johnson’s Brexit deal cruising through the House of Commons or Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn going back to Brussels for a new renegotiation.

Even with the Brexit stakes so high, the centrifugal pull of an election campaign means it’s nigh-on-impossible to keep the focus on one subject for any length of time. Johnson is happy to talk tough on security, even if the father of one of those killed keeps upbraiding him on social media. And Corbyn is on firmer ground talking up his domestic policy plans, as he did on railways earlier today. 

Theresa May’s 2017 election campaign was also interrupted by terror, in Manchester and London. The former prime minister’s bid for an expanded majority was derailed, in part at least, because Labour followed up with sharp criticism of her cuts to police numbers. But Brexit was more of a concept back then than a reality looming just around the corner: the two-year Article 50 process had only just been triggered.

This year’s election could be the last chance Britons get to vote on Brexit — but it could end up being decided by a wholly different debate. 

Today’s Must-Reads

Want to know where the rival parties stand on the key issues? You can explore the competing plans right here. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat is unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader “is ashamed of our country, and incapable of distinguishing between our friends and enemies,” he writes in the Telegraph. Guardian columnist John Harris tells readers that “some kind of Brexit must happen before progressive politics has a chance again in post-industrial England.”

Brexit in Brief

Unlocking Investment | Leaving the European Union with an “ambitious deal” on trade will help unlock U.K. investment and lead to a gradual improvement in growth, the Confederation of British Industry said Monday.

City Warning | The European Union could cut off the City of London’s access to post-Brexit markets if the U.K. diverges significantly from European rules after it leaves the bloc, EU financial-services chief Valdis Dombrovskis told the Financial Times.

Fortunes in Flux | Bank stocks could plunge as much as 30% if Labour wins control next week, according to HSBC analyst Robin Down. By contrast, Down sees a rally of up to 10% if Boris Johnson wins a majority.

Facebook Blitz | The Conservatives launched a blizzard of online advertisements over the weekend, pushing out 451 new ads to U.K. Facebook users on Sunday alone, according to data compiled by First Draft, a journalism non-profit tackling online disinformation. The Tories ran more than 2,600 ads from Nov. 29 to Dec 2.

No Trust for ‘Santa’ | Brexit voters in the Midlands are unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s policy on leaving the EU and don’t believe the Labour leader can deliver on all the spending promises laid out in his party’s manifesto, a focus group run by HuffPost UK and Edelman suggests.

Yellows in Peril | Half of U.K. adults now view Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson unfavorably, according to pollster Ipsos MORI. That’s up from 41% just a week earlier. Meanwhile, the proportion of respondents saying Labour is having a “good campaign” rose to 28% from 21% two weeks ago. 

Not Notting Hill | Who needs a popular leader? The Liberal Democrats have been graced by celebrity royalty on the doorsteps of London in recent days. Hugh Grant accompanied candidate Luciana Berger on the trail in Finchley and Golders Green on Sunday and took to the stump with Chuka Umunna in central London on Monday.

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To contact the author of this story: Adam Blenford in London at ablenford@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Guy Collins at guycollins@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans

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