Labour Vows Free Internet, Johnson Defends Flood Aid: U.K. Election Update

(Bloomberg) -- Prince Andrew’s interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is dominating the news, but British politicians are avoiding the subject. From a political perspective the most interesting news is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that every Conservative candidate has promised to back his Brexit deal.

The Conservatives are also giving an outline of their plans for a post-Brexit immigration system, and Labour is talking about the National Health Service.

For more on the U.K. election, click on ELEC

Key Developments:

  • Corbyn refuses to choose a side in Brexit debate
  • All Tory candidates pledge to vote for Brexit deal
  • Conservatives back away from fixed immigration target
  • Labour signs off its election manifesto
  • Labour promises free dental care for all

Corbyn Refuses to Choose a Brexit Side (10.30 a.m.)

In a BBC interview, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn refused repeatedly to say whether he’d campaign to leave the European Union or not during the referendum he proposes for next year. He also declined to say what his party proposes as an immigration policy, though he made it clear he’s not a fan of strict controls. “There will be a great deal of movement,” he said. Corbyn’s equivocation provides room for the Conservatives to tell people what they think he’d do.

The Labour leader was also ambiguous in some areas where he’s been historically forthright. Asked about Britain’s membership of NATO, Corbyn declined to say it was a good thing, but also didn’t attack it. On the U.K.’s nuclear arsenal, he restricted himself to saying that the country should be part of international negotiations to get rid of the weapons.

Asked how he proposed to pay for his policies, Corbyn said multinational companies should be made to pay more tax.

Johnson Should Have Declared Our Relationship: Arcuri (10.15 a.m.)

Prince Andrew isn’t the only one having his relationships thrust into the spotlight this weekend. Jennifer Arcuri, the American entrepreneur caught up in a controversy involving the prime minister, has given an interview to ITV saying she wishes Boris Johnson had declared their relationship as a potential conflict of interest.

While Arcuri has refused to discuss the exact nature of their relationship, she said Johnson cast her aside “like I am some gremlin” after the media began to ask questions about access and public money her company was given when he was mayor of London. Johnson has likewise refused to say what his relationship with Arcuri was, but denies any wrongdoing.

“I don’t understand why you’ve blocked me and ignored me as if I was some fleeting one-night stand or some girl that you picked up at a bar because I wasn’t,” she said, in the interview to be broadcast on Sunday evening.

Raab Says No-Deal Brexit is Not Remotely Likely (10 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was questioned about the plan for the future trade agreement with the EU on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. While he admitted that it will necessarily be a compromise, he said there’s an opportunity to reach a “win-win” which is “great for the U.K. but also good for our European friends.”

Asked if the U.K. could leave the EU without a deal, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “no, it’s not what we want to do.” He clarified, “I don’t think it’s remotely likely.”

Labour Promises Free Dental Care for All (9 a.m.)

Labour is continuing its approach of eye-catching offers for voters. After free broadband on Friday, Sunday’s was free dental care. Health spokesman Jon Ashworth told Sky News that people unable to afford to visit dentists were treating themselves using kits from budget shops.

Conservatives Drop Fixed Immigration Target (8:45 a.m.)

Security Minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News that after Brexit the Conservatives want to treat migrants from the European Union the same way as those from the rest of the world. He promised a five-year wait before people can claim welfare payments. But he backed away from the promise the Conservatives have been making -- and failing to keep -- for a decade, to reduce net immigration below 100,000 a year.

“We’ll not set arbitrary targets,” he said. “I’m not getting into those kind of issues that we’ve had before. We will reduce immigration because when we leave the EU we will pass an immigration act that brings in a points-based system.”

All Conservative Candidates Pledge to Back Brexit Deal (Overnight)

If Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins a majority on Dec. 12, his chances of swiftly passing his Brexit deal are increased by his announcement that all his candidates have promised to back it. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said: “All 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election -- every single one of them -- has pledged to me that if elected they will vote in Parliament to pass my Brexit deal so we can end the uncertainty and finally leave the EU. I am offering a pact with the people: if you vote Conservative you can be 100% sure a majority Conservative government will unblock Parliament and get Brexit done.”

It’s a significant pledge because the biggest obstacle to getting Brexit deals through Parliament has been the inability of Conservatives to agree about what kind of Brexit they want. But what it probably doesn’t cover is the next stage of Brexit, which is likely to revive arguments about how close the U.K. wants to be to the EU.

Labour Agrees on Election Manifesto (Overnight)

The opposition Labour Party signed off its policy platform for the election. It won’t be unveiled until Thursday, but some leaks include:

  • A “Right to Food Act” introducing price controls, according to the Mail
  • A windfall tax on oil companies, according to the Mail
  • An expansion of the sugar tax, according to the Mail
  • Dropping a plan to allow private tenants to buy their homes, according to the FT


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