Brexit Bulletin: Johnson’s Promise

Edward Evans
Brexit Bulletin: Johnson’s Promise

Days to General Election: 17

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What’s Happening? The Conservatives are playing it safe with election promises, but a new Brexit cliff-edge could soon come into view.

It seems like a safety-first manifesto: Get Brexit “done,” cut some taxes and promise to hire 50,000 extra nurses. In purely fiscal terms. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledges for the next Parliament amount to one pound of extra spending for every six promised by Labour, Bloomberg’s Andrew Atkinson notes.

And there’s a good reason the Conservative Party is cautious, despite being comfortably ahead in the polls. A new ICM/Reuters poll this afternoon gives the Tories a seven-point lead over the Labour Party — days after a separate weekend poll put them 19 points ahead. In 2017, a disastrous manifesto contributed to Theresa May almost losing the election.


Nevertheless, there’s one big buried risk: The manifesto explicitly rules out any extension to the Brexit transition period, which expires at the end of 2020. If he wins a majority, Johnson should be able to bring back his Brexit deal to Parliament before Christmas, but many experts think his desire to reach a swift trade deal is unrealistic. The promise has helped him neuter Nigel Farage and has brought hard Brexiters on board — but time is tight.

Johnson’s own commitments won’t make it easy to negotiate a trade deal. For one thing, he’s promised to leave the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of British waters. Access to those areas is one of France’s key demands.

The prime minister is no stranger to a U-turn or two, but breaking a manifesto pledge remains a big deal in British politics. We may not have seen the last of the Brexit cliff-edge.

Today’s Must-Reads

Despite the momentous choice facing the country, the mood is one of weariness — and that’s not the electorate’s fault, John Harris writes in the Guardian. The Financial Times has also been looking at the Tory manifesto — and found a gigafactory-sized hole. Forget the size of the Tory manifesto, Stephen Pollard writes in the Telegraph. “Only three words in the Tory manifesto matter: Get Brexit done.”

Brexit in Brief

Out of Commission | The U.K. failed to respond to a European Commission deadline for it to name a candidate for the incoming slate of commissioners. The commission “will now analyze” possible next steps, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels. The incoming commission team is due on Dec. 1.

Taking Stock | U.K. stocks may be poised to rebound in 2020 as fears of a no-deal Brexit recede, according to an increasing number of strategists and fund managers. Morgan Stanley strategists say U.K. shares are “potentially the best global equity opportunity for 2020.” Credit Suisse says that British stocks are 14% undervalued according to its model.

Leaders Grilled | The U.K.’s key political leaders will each be interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Neil before the election campaign is done. Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon is first in the hot-seat, on BBC One in the U.K. at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Tomorrow: Jeremy Corbyn.

‘Really Brazen’ | The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, criticized the Conservative Party for rebranding a party account as a fact-checking authority during last week’s Johnson-Corbyn debate. “It was unbelievable they would do that,” he told the BBC. “Don’t do that. Don’t trust people who do that.”

Remainers Speak Out | Two leading anti-Brexit figures spoke up in favor of voting tactically on Dec. 12. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would understand if people voted for the Liberal Democrats, while Liberal Democrat candidate Chuka Umunna urged voters to back his party to “help reduce the number of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs.”

Grime4Corbyn | Stormzy is backing Labour, again. In a letter to the Guardian, the award-winning grime MC said a vote for Labour was necessary to “end austerity, rebuild our communities” and change lives.


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