General election 2019: Boris Johnson vows to ‘forge a new Britain’

Boris Johnson

The Conservatives will “get Brexit done” and “forge a new Britain”, Boris Johnson has said as he launched the party’s election manifesto.

He vowed to train 50,000 new nurses, at a cost of £750m a year, and create 50 million more GP appointments.

Other “guarantees” include tighter immigration controls, zero-net carbon emissions by 2050 and no increases in income tax and VAT rates.

The 59-page manifesto comes 18 days before the general election.

Speaking at its launch in Telford, Mr Johnson said the UK had been “held back” by Brexit paralysis for three years and leaving at the end of January with his withdrawal agreement would release billions in “pent-up” business investment.

“Get Brexit done and we can restore confidence and certainty and business and families,” he said. “Get Brexit done and we can focus our hearts and minds on the priorities of the British people.”

The manifesto, which the PM described as a “partial blueprint” for the future of the country, promises 20,000 more police officers and to “level up” schools funding.

Other policies include:

  • An extra £1bn for social care in every year of the next parliament and a promise to build a “cross-party consensus” on the issue
  • Building “Northern Powerhouse Rail” between Leeds and Manchester and investing £28.8bn in strategic and local roads
  • A “triple tax lock”, ruling out increases in the headline rate of income tax and National Insurance, as well as VAT, for five years
  • Raising the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 in 2020, with an ambition to raise it further to £12,500
  • Childcare: £250m a year, for at least three years, plus a £250m capital spending boost, for “wraparound” childcare – meaning after school or during holidays
  • Environment: £6.3bn for environmental upgrades to homes, such as grants for improving boilers and insulation
  • Roads: £500m a year for four years to fund filling potholes – almost 10 times the amount promised by the party in an announcement in March
  • Education: A new National Skills Fund of £600m a year for five years. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have announced similar plans
  • Providing free hospital car parking in England for protected groups – costing £78m a year
  • A ban on exporting plastic waste to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Sticking to the commitment to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050

The prime minister is promising to “get Brexit done” by the end of January, by bringing back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to Parliament before 25 December and allow the UK to “turn the page from the dither, delay and division of recent years”.

The Conservatives want MPs to ratify the prime minister’s Brexit deal before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 January. After this there would be a “transition period” – during which the UK would continue to follow EU rules while the two sides try to work out a permanent trade deal.

The House of Commons approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in principle in October. But it has to be reintroduced because Parliament was dissolved ahead of the election on 12 December.

Media captionMichael Gove ruled out any extension to the transition period beyond the 31 December 2020 deadline

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that, under the Conservatives, the UK would be able to “walk away” from the EU and begin negotiations on a future trade and security relationship, which he insisted could be wrapped up in less than a year.

He ruled out any extension to the transition period beyond the 31 December 2020 deadline.

Parking

The manifesto promises free hospital parking in England for people with disabilities, frequent patients, the gravely ill, families of long-stay patients, carers and NHS staff working night shifts.

The Conservative Party says this will be funded by £78m per year, which it claims is new funding for providing extra parking capacity, or compensation for lost fees.

Labour wants to make hospital parking free for everyone in England, in line with Wales and Scotland.

‘Care consensus’

Mr Gove said the Conservatives were willing to talk to other parties to try and reach a long-term consensus on funding care for the elderly – which has eluded previous governments.

He said any solution must be affordable and fair to all the generations. Asked about Mr Johnson’s suggestion earlier in the campaign that the Tories would guarantee no-one would have to sell their house to pay for care, he said the party wanted to “work towards” such a position.

Pensions

The Conservative Party is promising to maintain the so-called “triple lock” on the UK state pension – meaning it will rise the by the rate of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, whichever is higher – and continuing the older person’s free bus pass.

Chancellor Sajid Javid told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News that the manifesto would be accompanied by the “most detailed and most transparent costings ever published in British electoral history”.

But Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, said the Conservatives’ position on taxes could “come back to bite” the party, as it could limit the ability to deal with growing financial pressures on the NHS from an ageing society.

What about trains?

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a Tory government would legislate to make sure rail services continue to operate even when strikes occur.

He criticised a series of strikes planned by rail workers in the run-up to Christmas, saying passengers were being “held to ransom”.

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