Closed General Election: Corbyn backtracks on Scottish independence referendum – as it happened


Boris Johnson speaks in Midlands, Labour says no second Scottish vote in “early years” of first term, both party leaders heckled on campaign trail.

Good morning

Welcome to another day of election campaigning.

As Wednesday kicks off, Nigel Farage is facing fresh calls to stand down more Brexit party candidates to give the Conservatives a clear run against Labour in marginal seats.

Follow our rolling coverage here, where we will be bringing you updates on the latest campaign twists and turns, as well as analysis by FT correspondents.

Farage under increasing pressure to ‘take his chips off the table’

George Parker, the FT’s political editor writes:

Nigel Farage has come under renewed pressure to give Boris Johnson a clear run at Labour in key marginal seats, just a day after he agreed to pull candidates out of more than 300 Tory-held constituencies.

Arron Banks urged the Brexit party leader to “take his chips off the table” and withdraw from many of the Labour-held seats that could determine the election. Mr Banks was the funder of one of the main Leave campaigns during the 2016 EU referendum and is a longtime ally of Mr Farage.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader and leading Eurosceptic, warned Mr Farage that he risked Brexit by splitting the vote: “If they want to deliver Brexit they’ve still got to focus on the fact that if they divide the vote, they’ll let Labour in,” he told The Sun.

The comments came as Mr Johnson prepared to call for an “end to the groundhoggery of Brexit”, warning that if he failed to win the election then the country would be plunged into more uncertainty and chaos.

He will claim in a speech in the West Midlands on Wednesday that a minority government led by Jeremy Corbyn and backed by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon would lead to two referendums — one on Brexit and one on Scottish independence.

Today’s Papers

The Times leads on polling showing the Conservatives opening up a 14 point lead over Labour on the back of Nigel Farage’s Monday announcement that he would withdraw Brexit party candidates from Tory-held seats.

The Mirror and Guardian meanwhile have opted to put Labour’s NHS spending plans on their font pages, after the party pledged a a £26bn funding boost for health.

UK businesses set out their stall

The FT’s Dan Thomas has spoken to a host of UK executives, who have made the case for five specific areas to be addressed by whoever wins the election:

1. Brexit: Businesses are keen for an arrangement as near to the status quo as possible, including regulatory alignment for industries that trade with the EU.

2. Education and skills: Businesses want to see greater investment at all levels of education, especially a reform of the apprenticeship levy – a tax on UK employers to fund workplace training – following complaints that the money is not being used properly.

3. Business incentives: Almost half of members polled by the Institute of Directors want to see some form of business incentive to boost investment.

4. Business Rates: One of the major gripes for executives is business rates, a tax on property that has in particular hit retailers and manufacturers, and which they want to see reduced. They argue that business rates are adding to the decline of the high street, given the additional costs for struggling retailers.

5. Infrastructure: Finally, executives want to see further investment in infrastructure. The British Chamber of Commerce wants 1.4 per cent of GDP committed to public investment in infrastructure — exceeding the 1.2 per cent guideline recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.

Read Dan’s full piece here for more details.

Ex-justice secretary Gauke says Tory majority would threaten UK prosperity

Sebastian Payne writes:

David Gauke, the former justice secretary, has warned that a Conservative majority government after the upcoming election would put the UK on course for a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020.

The former cabinet minister announced on Tuesday evening that he will stand against his old party as an independent candidate in South West Hertfordshire on the December 12 poll. Mr Gauke said he hoped to “strengthen the centre ground” by setting out his concerns regarding Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

He told the BBC:

“A Conservative majority after the next general election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit and in all likelihood at the end of 2020, we will leave the implementation period without a deal with the European Union on WTO terms – in effect on no-deal terms.”

“That I believe would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country. Whole sectors would become unviable. Our agriculture sector, our manufacturing industries will be in a very very difficult position if we go down that route.”

Mr Gauke said that the prime minister was “boxed in” by the Brexit party, the Tory grassroots and membership and would not be able to extend the transition beyond next year. He added it would take “four, five, six years…at the very least three years” to strike a trade deal with the EU.

Gove: David Gauke is ‘wrong about this election’

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of preparing for a no-deal Brexit, has hit back at David Gauke after the former justice secretary said a Conservative majority would leave the UK on course for a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, Mr Gove said his former colleague was “right about a lot but I think he is wrong in what he says about this general election” as he touted the benefits of Boris Johnson’s “oven-ready” Brexit deal.

But Mr Gove declined to deal with the possibility that if a trade deal with the European Union is not secured by the end of the transition period in December 2020, a no-deal Brexit would be back on the table.

He said such an outcome was “is a hypothesis that has been put by people … who have consistently sought to raise bogies and make people’s flesh creep”.

Instead, Mr Gove sought to focus on the Labour party, saying a government under Jeremy Corbyn would lead to “division and paralysis” and “suck all the oxygen out of our political system”.

“If we have a majority Conservative government … we can get parliament working again and we can … conclude that good Brexit deal that has been negotiated with the EU.”

Baroness Warsi says Tories ‘diluting’ Islamophobia inquiry

Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, said she was “disappointed” that an investigation into racism in the party will not focus purely on issues of Islamophobia.

Her comments come as the party suspended a host of sitting and former councillors for posting Islamophobic content on social media, following an exposé by the Guardian newspaper.

Boris Johnson has promised a “general investigation into prejudice” in the party. But Baroness Warsi said the party was “trying to dilute what it is going to look at” and should focus the probe on Islamophobia.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, she said:

I welcome any form of an inquiry. I’ve got to the point where beggars can’t be choosers any more.

But I am disappointed that the party, having now realised that there is a real problem in relation to a specific form of racism, is still trying to absolve its responsibility by trying to dilute what it is going to look at.

Baroness Warsi said that, while her party has “an institutional problem” with Islamophobia, she could hardly ask voters not to back the Conservatives when the Labour party is also entangled in racism allegations.

I can’t realistically hand on heart say that I’d like people not to vote for my party that is mired in allegations of racism and vote for another party that is also mired in issues of racism.

Markets round up: Equities fall after Trump speech

European markets opened lower this morning after comments last night from President Donald Trump, in which he threatened to escalate the trade war with China, knocking previous optimism that the global trade picture was improving.

The composite Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.8 per cent, with declines across major continental bourses. London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 per cent, while the Cac 40 in Paris was 0.7 per cent lower. Frankfurt’s Dax 30 was down more than 1 per cent.

In a speech after European markets closed yesterday at the Economic Club of New York, Mr Trump said tariffs on Chinese goods would be “raised very substantially” if no truce was reached with officials in Beijing – dampening hopes of an imminent “phase one” deal between the countries.

Neil MacKinnon at VTB Capital said the “erratic nature” of the US-China trade news flow has now become commonplace.

Investors would prefer to see hard evidence of a roll-back in tariffs on China as well as a pull-back in the US tariff net, especially against the EU.

In currencies the pound was flat against the dollar at $1.2850 and also against the euro at €1.1666.

UK inflation rate hits three-year low in October

The FT’s Bethan Staton reports:

UK inflation slowed to its lowest level in three years in October, according to official data, as falling transport and energy prices pushed down growth rates in a subdued economy.

Prices last month were 1.5 per cent higher than the same period last year, falling from 1.7 per cent in September and lower than the consensus of 1.6 per cent.

“A fall in utility prices due to a lowering of the energy price cap helped ease inflation in October,” an Office for National Statistics spokesperson said of the figures. “However, this was partially offset by rising clothing prices.”

Former Labour MP backs Tories

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn begins his first visit to Scotland of the campaign, a former Labour member of parliament for Glasgow has announced he will be voting Conservative, reports Mure Dickie in Edinburgh.

Tom Harris, a prominent campaigner for Brexit, said an article in the Scottish Daily Mail on Wednesday that Mr Corbyn could “not be trusted” to preserve the security or unity of the UK.

Mr Harris, who is now a columnist for The Telegraph newspaper and works for a political relations consultancy, said that if elected Mr Corbyn would bow to Scottish National party demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

He has made it clear he has no love for the Union that binds our family of nations together.

Mr Harris, who was parliamentary under-secretary for transport from 2006-2008, lost his Glasgow South seat to the SNP in 2015.

Mr Corbyn is touring Scottish constituencies today and on Thursday, amid gloom about Labour’s electoral prospects north of the English border. A YouGov poll conducted in late October and published last week found just 12 per cent of voters in Scotland would back Labour, down from the 27 per cent who vote for the party at the last general election in 2017.

The UK Labour leadership has suggested a Corbyn government might approve a second independence referendum if pro-independence parties retain their majority in the Scottish parliament at elections scheduled for 2021.

Emoticon Prime Minister criticised by flood-hit residents

Boris Johnson has faced criticism from residents in South Yorkshire as he toured flood-hit parts of England this morning.

One member of the public working on flood defences refused to talk to the prime minister, according to a BBC video.

“I am not very happy about talking to you, so if you don’t mind I’ll just mooch on with what I’m doing. Because you’ve not helped us,” she said.

In a separate incident, also filmed by the BBC, one person could be heard saying “you took your time Boris” to the prime minister, while another asked “where have you been?” Another member of the public said “no thank you” and walked away when Mr Johnson tried to engage him on what resources the community needed.

The government’s slow response to the flooding has become an election issue this week.

Mr Johnson called an emergency meeting five days after heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks in the North and Midlands, leaving 400 homes flooded and more than 1,000 evacuated. One person in Derbyshire died.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the government’s “woeful” response, claiming they would have acted more swiftly if they had occurred in the South of England.

Update: It is been an uncomfortable morning for both party leaders.

Video has also emerged of a member of the public interrupting Jeremy Corbyn on a walkabout and commenting: “I thought you’d be wearing your Islamic jihad scarf”, a reference to allegations Mr Corbyn has previously supported extremist groups.

Voters back raising taxes to fund the NHS

With Jeremy Corbyn yesterday promising a £26bn funding boost for the NHS, health is has shifted into the campaign spotlight.

Mr Corbyn’s pledge would amount to a 4.3 per cent annual funding increase over the next four years, compared to current spending, against a Tory pledge of a 3.4 per cent increase.

And voters, it seems, are willing to countenance higher taxation in order to improve the UK’s ailing health service.

New polling by YouGov shows 53 per cent of voters support increasing the basic rate of income tax from 20 to 21 per cent and using the money raised to increase spending on the NHS.

Such a proposal would have cross party support, according to YouGov. Two-thirds of Labour voters and 62 per cent of Lib Dem voters would back the one point tax hike, if it left the NHS in better stead, while half of Brexit Party and Tory voters would support it.

Corbyn heckled in Glasgow

Both party leaders have faced their first major unscripted and uncomfortable interactions with the public of this election campaign.

A fuller video has emerged of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being heckled by a member of the public on the campaign trail. It comes on the same morning that Boris Johnson faced angry residents in South Yorkshire, who criticised the prime minister’s response to the flooding in the region.

Mr Corbyn was on a campaign stop in Glasgow when he was called a “terrorist sympathiser” by an onlooker.

In a video posted by the BBC, a man is heard interrupting Mr Corbyn:

“Do you think the man that is going to be prime minister of this country should be a terrorist sympathiser Mr Corbyn? Who is going to be the first terrorist invited to the House of Commons when you are prime minister?”

Mr Corbyn did not respond.

These kind of potentially embarrassing moments are a regular feature of UK election campaigns. Most memorably of all, then-deputy Labour leader John Prescott punched a protester during the 2001 election campaign.

Greens promise to appoint ‘carbon chancellor’

The Green party has said it would appoint a ‘carbon chancellor’ and turn the Treasury into a new department to implement its transformative policies if elected.

The party, which had one MP elected in 2017, said it would transform the government spending machine to allocate the £100bn a year it has promised to use to tackle climate change.

Under the proposals, the Treasury would become a department to tackle climate change in a bid to decarbonise the economy by 2030.

“We have to radically transform the way we look at the economy,” Green co-leader Jonathan Bartley said.

“Every sector of the economy needs to decarbonise,” he told the BBC.

While all the major parties have promised to help the environment and tackle climate change, the Green’s policies are the most radical. The Labour party’s membership had backed a 2030 net zero-carbon target at its annual conference in September, but the FT has reported that senior party officials are expected to push back against this and some other radical measures when the manifesto is finalised.

Lib Dems to stand against David Gauke

Laura Hughes writes:

Liberal Democrats officials have confirmed they will stand a candidate against the former Tory minister David Gauke in his South West Hertfordshire constituency.

Mr Gauke, who was kicked out of the Tory party for voting against prime minister Boris Johnson on Brexit, announced on Tuesday that he would stand against his former colleagues as an independent candidate.

The Lib Dems have agreed to stand aside in some seats such as Beaconsfield, where Dominic Grieve, a former Tory minister who also had the party whip removed, is battling to save his seat.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Mr Gauke said he hoped the Lib Dems might also stand aside for him in the December poll.

He also said he had become convinced that a second referendum was required to “check back in with the British people” about whether they wish to push ahead with Brexit.

Conservative candidate stands down

Another Conservative candidate has stood aside, Sebastian Payne reports.

Chris Davies, who was due to stand in Ynys Mon in Wales, has withdrawn following criticism from his colleagues.

Mr Davies previously served as the MP for the Welsh seat of Brecon and Radnorshire, until he lost his seat following a conviction for false expenses claims. In the ensuing by-election this summer – prompted by a recall petition – he was beaten by the Liberal Democrats.

After being selected for the Ynys Mon seat, Mr Davies was criticised by colleagues. He announced on Wednesday:

“I will not want to put my wife and family through any more distress. Given the reaction in the media to the idea of me being a candidate, I have decided to pull out of the selection process.”

With the deadline for candidates at 4pm on Thursday, the Conservatives will rapidly have to find someone to run in Yyns Mon, a seat the party is hopeful of winning on December 12.

Corbyn rules out second Scottish referendum in Labour’s first term

Mure Dickie, the FT’s Scotland correspondent, reports from Hamilton:

Jeremy Corbyn has ruled out approving a second Scottish independence referendum in the first term of a Labour government, a marked hardening of the UK party leader’s position on the issue.

Labour has struggled to come up with a consistent position on how it would respond to demands for another referendum, but UK party leaders have said one might be approved if there was still a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament after elections scheduled for 2021.

The Press Association quoted Mr Corbyn as saying in an interview during a visit to Glasgow on Wednesday that there would be “no referendum in the first term for a Labour government, because I think we need to concentrate completely in investment across Scotland”.

However, the PA said aides to the Labour leader had later backtracked to say the party’s position could change if the Scottish National party wins control of the Scottish parliament in 2021.

Previously Mr Corbyn’s aides have said that a second Scottish independence referendum would not be approved “during the formative years of a Labour government”. They later suggested this position would only apply for the first year of a Labour government, leaving open the possibility of a change of tack if the SNP won the Holyrood elections in 2021.

Mr Corbyn made no mention of when he might approve another independence referendum during a lunchtime campaign stop in the town of Hamilton near Glasgow.

Markets round-up: Stocks stumble on Trump comments

Equity markets have remained subdued this afternoon on the back of comments by US president Donald Trump, which damped hopes of a swift resolution to the US-China trade war.

Speaking after European markets closed yesterday, Mr Trump said tariffs on China would be “raised very substantially” if no truce were reached with officials in Beijing.

European stock markets pared some of their earlier losses in afternoon trade, but remained lower across the board as Mr Trump’s comments sparked more caution. Wall Street opened lower, with the S&P 500 slipping 0.4 per cent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was down 0.4 per cent. Frankfurt’s Dax was 0.6 per cent lower, while in Paris the Cac 40 shed 0.3 per cent and London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.4 per cent.

“Equities are retreating today on Trump’s comments as the US-China trade deal again seems uncertain,” said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

It’s clear that behind the glossy comments in October about a tentative agreement from both sides that things are not progressing as well as initially thought.

Scottish Tories hit out at Labour ‘disarray’ on independence referendum

Mure Dickie reports:

Stephen Kerr, the Scottish Conservative candidate for Stirling, said Jeremy Corbyn was in “complete disarray” over his party’s position on a second independence referendum.

His comments came after Mr Corbyn ruled out approving a second independence referendum in the first term of a Labour government, only to later have this position amended by aides, who said that the party’s position could change if the Scottish National party wins control of the Scottish parliament in 2021, according to PA reports.

“Barely before he’d finished speaking, he was being ‘clarified’ by his aides,” said Mr Kerr.

The only thing that’s clear is that he simply cannot be trusted to back Scotland’s place in the UK.

The Conservatives have tried to paint a vote for Labour as a vote for a second independence referendum, in a reprise of attack lines that worked successfully in the 2015 general election, which included a memorable poster of Ed Miliband, then-Labour leader, in the pocket of the SNP’s former boss Alex Salmond.

A million undocumented migrants living in UK in 2017, study shows

Robert Wright reports:

Around 1m people were living in the UK in 2017 without a residence permit, more than in any other European country except Germany, according to the first detailed attempt to quantify the phenomenon in the past 10 years.

Researchers from the US-based Pew Research Center estimated the number of overseas citizens living without a residence permit in the UK at between 800,000 and 1.2m. This compares to an estimate of between 417,000 and 863,000 made in 2007 using similar research techniques.

The figures mean that the UK was host to around a quarter of all unauthorised migrants living in the 32 countries covered by the survey: the 28 EU members plus the four European Free Trade Association countries — Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The researchers put the total unauthorised migrant population of the 32 countries at between 3.9m and 4.8m.

The researchers classed an unauthorised migrant as any person who was not a citizen of an EU or Efta country who was living in the 32 countries without a residence permit. The term covered anyone who entered a country without proper authorisation, overstayed a visa or did not leave after being ordered to do so. The figures included 1m asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their right to remain in the country concerned, many of whom may be granted asylum in future.

Researchers generally prefer terms such as “unauthorised” or “undocumented” migrant to “illegal” because of the range of circumstances surrounding the group and the potential for many to regularise their status or win appeals against unfavourable rulings.

Pew said the figures reflected the high numbers of migrants that arrived in Europe during the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016, partly as a result of the war in Syria, many of whom sought asylum.

Farage insists Brexit party will not be standing down from more seats

Nigel Farage has said the Brexit party will be standing in “every single” Labour-held constituency, in a blow to Tory hopes the party might further withdraw from the contest in order to avoid splitting the Leave vote.

Speaking from a boxing ring in east London, Mr Farage said any suggestion that the Brexit party might stand down candidates from more seats was “an attempt at intimidation that has come from elements of the press”.

We are going to take on all the remainers who are standing in this country.

The comments come as Mr Farage has been put under renewed pressure to give Boris Johnson a clear run at Labour in key marginal seats. On Monday he agreed to pull candidates out of more than 300 Tory-held constituencies in order to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.

Even Arron Banks, the funder of one of the main Leave campaigns during the 2016 EU referendum, has urged Mr Farage to “take his chips off the table” and withdraw from many of the Labour-held seats that could determine the election.

But Mr Farage said he was adamant the Brexit party was “fighting a very serious campaign” and that there were 5m Labour voters in the country who would “never ever vote for the Conservative party as long as they live”, but who would be willing to vote for the Brexit party.

Alastair Campbell to campaign for David Gauke

Alastair Campbell, the former Labour spin-doctor, has said he will be campaigning for ex-Conservative minister David Gauke as he criticised the opposition parties for failing to form an effective ‘remain alliance’.

Mr Gauke, who was kicked out of the Conservative party for voting against the government on Brexit, is standing against his former colleagues as an independent candidate in his South West Hertfordshire constituency.

“I will go to [South West Hertfordshire] and campaign for David Gauke,” Mr Campbell told ITV.

The Brexit party’s decision to stand aside in hundreds of Tory-held seats to stop the Leave vote splintering has heightened attention on the other major parties’ inability to agree such an arrangement.

Earlier today the Liberal Democrats confirmed they would stand a candidate against Mr Gauke, potentially splitting the Remain vote.

The Lib Dems have agreed to stand aside in some seats such as Beaconsfield, where Dominic Grieve, a former Tory minister who also had the party whip removed, is battling to save his seat. But a wider alliance across the country has proven elusive.

“I think we’ve all got to do what we can do… It really depresses me, why are the Greens standing against [former Tory and pro-EU candidate] Anna Soubry,” Mr Campbell said.

Johnson to refocus attention on Brexit

We are standing by for a speech from the prime minister in the West Midlands.

In it, Boris Johnson is expected to call for an “end to the groundhoggery of Brexit”, arguing that a Conservative government would complete the process and “unleash Britain’s potential”.

Mr Johnson is also expected to repeat his claim that a minority government led by Jeremy Corbyn and backed by the Scottish National party would lead to two referendums — one on Brexit and one on Scottish independence.

Mr Corbyn’s stance on a second Scottish referendum has been in focus today. The Labour leader initially ruled out a referendum in any Labour government’s first term, but this was later amended by aides, who said that the party’s position could change if the SNP wins control of the Scottish parliament in 2021.

Confusion over Labour’s stance on Scottish independence

The FT’s Scotland correspondent Mure Dickie has the latest on Labour party policy on Scotland:

Jeremy Corbyn has left open the possibility of approving a second Scottish independence referendum after 2021 if the Labour party leader becomes prime minister.

Mr Corbyn had in an interview earlier on the first day of a visit to Scotland appeared to rule out allowing a rerun of the 2014 independence plebiscite, saying there would be “no referendum in the first term for a Labour government”.

But asked by journalists about the issue at a later campaign stop he reverted to the Labour party’s stance on the issue, which leaves open the possibility of approving a referendum after the 2021 Scottish parliamentary election.

“We will not countenance an [independence] referendum in the early years of of a Labour government.

The Labour leader declined to define what he meant by the “early years” or to explain the difference in his comments on the constitutional question, the central issue of Scottish politics.

“The confusion is with you, if I may say so, not me,” he told a journalist at a briefing at a miner’s welfare club in Uddingston in South Lanarkshire.

The lack of clarity on Labour’s position on independence offers a boost to the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats, who are seeking to portray themselves as more reliable defenders of UK unity.

Emoticon Boris Johnson speaks in Coventry

Sebastian Payne writes:

Boris Johnson is delivering his first major speech of the election campaign from Coventry.

He is speaking from the factory of the London Electric Vehicle Company, which produces black cabs. The factory closed down production at 4:25pm in anticipation of the PM’s speech.

Johnson hails green ‘industrial revolution’

The prime minister opened his speech by praising the new electric black cabs, which are built in the factory where is speaking.

He said the Britain of 2019 is a rebuttal to the pessimists after the war who said the country was fated to decline.

“We are seeing a new industrial revolution, a green industrial revolution, creating thousands of environmentally sustainable technologies. A glorious rebuttal to the sceptics who said it could not be done.”

The timing of this speech is mildly awkward for the prime minister.

Tesla chief Elon Musk announced on Tuesday that the electric-vehicle pioneer would bring its first European production site to Berlin. Mr Musk said that Britain was never in the running for the gigafactory, as it was considered “too risky” because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Johnson: Sorting Brexit important for UK’s psychological health

Boris Johnson has outlined why he thinks the country needs an election, blaming parliament for standing in the way of his Brexit deal. (Parliament voted in favour of his deal in principle, but voted against the unusually compressed timetable the government put forward.)

“We have got absolutely no choice. We must get Brexit done,” he said. “It is the best thing for our politics and also our psychological health.”

The prime minister said there are tens of billions of pounds of foreign direct investment which have been held back by the political uncertainty waiting to come into the country.

As expected, he also warned over a possible deal between the Labour party and Scottish National party, which he said is Labour’s “only path to power.” Repeating a regular attack line, he said this would lead to two referendums in 2020, over Brexit and Scottish independence.

“The Sturgeon-Corbyn alliance would consign this country to months, if not years, of dither, delay, discord and division,” he said.

Labour: Johnson a ‘pathological liar’

The prime minister laid out his vision for Britain, including improved transport, housing and greater skills.

He also unveiled a pledge to double funding for research and development in the country to £18bn, which he said would be the biggest ever increase in support for R&D.

As the prime minister takes questions, Labour’s John McDonnell has responded to one of Mr Johnson’s many attack lines, when he claimed that the shadow chancellor would impose capital controls to try to contain market reaction to a Labour government.

Mr McDonnell said the prime minister is a “pathological liar.”

Separately, video has emerged of yet another awkward interaction between the prime minister and voters earlier today.

Mr Johnson was scolded by several members of the public when visiting flood hit parts of Yorkshire. “It’s taken you over five days” said one resident, who said the prime minister’s announcements for help have been “a pittance.” You can watch the video here.

Here is a wrap of today’s major developments

• There has been confusion over Labour’s policy towards a second vote on Scottish independence. Jeremy Corbyn, having initially ruled out a referendum during a first term, later opened the possibility of approving a vote after 2021 if the Labour leader becomes prime minister.

• Will the government’s response to the floods in England cut through and become a major election issue? The prime minister was heckled in several separate incidents by residents today when he visited flood hit areas of Northern England.

• Boris Johnson has also given his first major speech of the campaign, in which he promised to “get Brexit done” and unleash significant investment into the UK. The prime minister also emphasised his party’s moderate “one nation” policies, including investment into the environment, infrastructure and housing.

• Nigel Farage has said the Brexit party will be standing in “every single” Labour-held constituency, in a blow to Tory hopes the party might further withdraw from the contest in order to avoid splitting the Leave vote.

NHS will need 40 new hospitals if Labour bars private sector, providers say

Sarah Neville and Jim Pickard report:

More than 40 new hospitals would be needed in England if an incoming Labour government barred private companies from delivering National Health Service-funded care, according to the organisation representing independent providers.

As it seeks to make the case for its continued role in the face of Labour’s anti-privatisation drive, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network said the sector performed 11.2 per cent of all non-urgent care, amounting to 436,000 operations a year.

Meanwhile, Labour was dragged into a row over whether its plans for a 32-hour week — without any loss of pay — would mean a multibillion pound increase in the NHS pay bill.

The providers network said its own calculations suggested its work was equivalent to all the elective care delivered annually in London.

You can read the full story here.

Focus turns to Washington

We are closing down the general election coverage for this evening, and will be back early tomorrow morning.

For now, do turn over to our live coverage from Washington as the House impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump and Ukraine enters the public eye.