Labour Rejects 2020 Scottish Independence Referendum: U.K. Votes

Stuart Biggs and Greg Ritchie
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Labour Rejects 2020 Scottish Independence Referendum: U.K. Votes

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s political parties are focusing on domestic issues, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing new post-Brexit visas to fast-track foreign staff for the National Health Service, and Labour unveiling measures to improve working conditions for women.

The Scottish National Party launched its campaign with a promise to block the state-run health care system from being included in any future trade deal with the U.S.. Labour rebuffed the SNP’s call for a referendum on independence in 2020 as the price for putting Jeremy Corbyn into power.

Key Developments:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is campaigning in Wales, as is Brexit Party leader Nigel FarageSNP promises second referendum on Scottish independenceLiberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson visits marginal seat of North East Fife, which the SNP won by just two votes in 2017BBC announced further TV debates on Nov. 29 and Dec. 6

Labour Rule Out 2020 Scottish Referendum (2 p.m.)

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, rebuffed Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a 2020 referendum on Scottish independence as the price for helping put Jeremy Corbyn into power if he fails to win a clear majority (see 11:30 a.m.).

“We are not in this to do anything other than win and we are not doing deals,” Starmer told Sky News. Asked if he could rule out an independence referendum next year, he said “yes, we are not in this to do deals.”

Corbyn said in August he would not support a new Scottish referendum in “the formative years” of a Labour government.

BBC to Host Johnson-Corbyn Debate on Dec. 6 (12:35 p.m.)

The BBC said it will host a debate between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in Southampton on Dec. 6 -- six days before the general election.

The broadcaster will also hold what it called a “seven-way podium debate” among “senior figures” from the major political parties on Nov. 29 in Cardiff.

Televised debates -- and the question of which parties are invited to take part -- are already proving controversial. Nicola Sturgeon has threatened to take legal action against Sky News for excluding her Scottish National Party from its proposed debate between Johnson, Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson on Nov. 28. Swinson herself has objected to her exclusion from ITV’s planned Johnson-Corbyn debate on Nov. 19.

Sturgeon: Scotland’s ‘Fundamental’ Choice (11:30 a.m.)

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland faces a “fundamental choice” at the Dec. 12 election: Vote SNP “to escape Brexit.”

“A vote for the SNP is a vote to take Scotland’s future out of the hands of Boris Johnson and a broken Westminster system,” Sturgeon said at the SNP’s election campaign launch in Edinburgh. Her party will pursue a referendum on Scottish independence next year, she said. The last one was held in 2014.

In comments that will have implications if the general election results in no party having a majority, Sturgeon ruled out backing any government unless it offers Scotland a plebiscite. And she suggested Jeremy Corbyn would support one. The Labour leader “supports self-determination for virtually every other country in the world,” she said. “It would be mighty strange if he didn’t support it for Scotland.”

Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, also pledged to introduce a new law to protect the state-run National Health Service from inclusion in any trade deal with the U.S. It would mean the Scottish Parliament and other devolved legislatures would have to give their explicit consent, she said.

Johnson Says NHS Not for Sale Under Tories (11 a.m.)

In a pooled interview with broadcasters, Boris Johnson denied the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service would be up for negotiation in any future trade deal with the U.S.

“We can do free trade deals with countries around the world but under us the NHS is not for sale,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to be on any kind of international trade negotiation.”

The U.K.’s health service is always a key election issue but it’s significance is heightened this time because of Brexit, and the government’s promise to negotiate a free-trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump. That’s increased concerns the NHS could come under threat from U.S. health insurers and drug companies.

Johnson’s Brexit Analysis Provides Opposition Fodder (10 a.m.)

Even as Boris Johnson’s Conservatives try to put the attention on the National Health Service and other domestic issues on Friday, a video of the prime minister explaining the benefits of his Brexit deal to Northern Ireland is dominating the early headlines.

In a rambling speech, recorded at a meeting of local Conservatives in Northern Ireland, Johnson said the province got a “great deal” because it keeps freedom of movement with the European Union and access to the bloc’s single market.

Such comments are a gift to Tory opponents, particularly the pro-EU Liberal Democrats. Tom Brake, the party’s Brexit spokesman, responded on Twitter: “I do agree on one point: the Single Market and freedom of movement are indeed a great deal - even @BorisJohnson recognizes this.”

Meanwhile the Labour Party criticized Johnson for distorting the terms of his Brexit deal with Brussels when he told the audience there would be no checks on goods coming from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. The government has previously conceded some checks will be necessary on goods traveling in both directions.

“Boris Johnson either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth. Probably both,” Labour’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said on Twitter.


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--With assistance from Robert Hutton.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stuart Biggs in London at;Greg Ritchie in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Thomas Penny, Stuart Biggs

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