TELFORD, England (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise to bring his deal to leave the European Union back to parliament before Christmas when he launches his Conservative Party’s manifesto on Sunday.
With less than three weeks before Britain heads to the polls on Dec. 12, the governing Conservatives and opposition Labour are trying to tempt voters with different visions but several pledges to spend more on public services.
Johnson’s manifesto aims at drawing a distinction with Labour, which has promised to raise taxes on the rich and businesses to fund a big expansion of the state, by promising not to increase taxes if the Conservatives win the election.
Opinion polls show Johnson’s Conservative Party commands a sizeable lead over the Labour Party, although large numbers of undecided voters means the outcome is not certain.
“My early Christmas present to the nation will be to bring the Brexit bill back before the festive break, and get parliament working for the people,” Johnson will say, according to excerpts of his speech that he will make at an event in the West Midlands region of England.
Arriving at a conference centre in Telford, Johnson was welcomed by supporters chanting “Boris” but a little further away, protesters shouted: “Liar, liar, pants on fire”.
Contrasting with Labour’s unabashed tax-and-spend approach, Johnson’s manifesto – titled “Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential” – will pledge to freeze income tax, value-added sales tax and social security payments.
Johnson will also announce a 3 billion pounds ($3.85 billion) National Skills Fund to retrain workers and an extra 2 billion pounds to fill pot-holes in roads. He will also pledge to maintain the regulatory cap on energy bills.
Finance minister Sajid Javid told Sky News that the Conservatives’ plan will be accompanied by a very detailed financing document and that the governing party would balance day-to-day spending and keep debt low.
But Labour spokesman Andrew Gwynne said Johnson’s plans were “pathetic”. “This is a no hope manifesto, from a party that has nothing to offer the country, after spending ten years cutting our public services,” Gwynne said.
To try to win over voters, Labour announced another spending commitment, promising to compensate more than three million women who lost years of state pension payments when their retirement age was raised.
Think tanks like the Institute for Fiscal Studies have raised questions about the credibility of plans to fund investment from both the Conservatives and Labour.
Held after three years of negotiations to leave the European Union, the December election for the first time will show how far Brexit has torn traditional political allegiances apart and will test an electorate increasingly tired of voting.
In a heated campaign where the Conservatives have been criticised for disseminating misleading social media posts, Johnson, 55, will say he will “turn the page from the dither, delay and division” of recent years.
Labour has said it will negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU within six months that it will put to the people in a new referendum — one which will also offer the choice of remaining in the bloc.
Corbyn has said he would remain neutral in such a vote, something his finance policy chief John McDonnell described as the Labour leader adopting the role of “an honest broker”.
Johnson will criticise the stance.
“We now know the country can be carbon (neutral) by 2050 and Corbyn neutral by 2020, as the leader of the opposition has decided to duck the biggest issue facing our country today,” Johnson will say.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Andy Bruce, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Emelia Sithole-Matarise