Closed Election: Nigel Farage unveils Brexit party’s manifesto – as it happened

General Election 2019

The Brexit party and the Welsh Plaid Cymru reveal their policies; Corbyn and McDonnell defend tax plans; Tories propose stamp duty rise for foreign buyers; while UK figures show more gloomy outlook


And we’re back

Hello and welcome to Election Central on a damp Friday morning in London.

Labour’s launch yesterday of its manifesto — its most left wing in a generation — continues to provoke a strong reaction, with business leaders and investors expressing concern over its slate of policy proposals.

Today, Scottish Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Brexit party will be hoping to entice voters as they set out their stalls.

We’ll be bringing you the latest on all of this as we get it.


View from Fleet Street

Most of this morning’s papers lead on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto, with the conservative Telegraph terming his plans a “tax blitz” while the Times says it is Mr Corbyn’s “dream spending plan”.

Here’s the Guardian’s front page:

In the tabloids, the rightwing press calls it an “£80bn raid on your wallets” (Express) and “Corbyn’s £83bn tax robbery” (Daily Mail) while the left-leaning Daily Mirror says the document is “On your side”.

The Financial Times takes a look at the business angle, saying the tax and spend programme stirs the spectre of the 1970s.

The pink paper highlights Charles Schwab closing in on a $25bn deal for its rival TD Ameritrade as a brutal price war forces the brokerage industry to consolidate.

Prince Andrew and his troubles still find a home on the front page of the Sun.


On today’s agenda

We have three parties laying out their policy agendas today.

In the village of Nantgarw outside Cardiff, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price will launch his party’s manifesto, with a pledge that “Wales can be the cradle of a Green Jobs Revolution”.

The Welsh nationalist party will commit itself to creating a self-sustainable renewable economy, creating “tens of thousands” of highly skilled jobs over the next decade.

In Glasgow, meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard will launch his manifesto, which will feature a promise of free school meals to all primary and secondary school pupils across Scotland.

The Brexit party plans to show its hand too. But theirs will not be a manifesto, a word Nigel Farage, its leader, says is “one of the least trusted terms in the English language”. Instead Mr Farage will launch what he calls a “contract with the British people”.

Brexit will, unsurprisingly, be the priority and Mr Farage will call for “a clean break from all EU institutions”. He will also be committing the party to the abolition of the House of Lords and a reduction in net migration.


Tories propose 3% stamp duty increase for foreign buyers

Non-UK residents will have to pay an extra 3 per cent in stamp duty under new proposals being put forward by the Conservative party.

Setting out the policy on the BBC this morning, chief secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak said it was not right that it is as easy for foreign companies and individuals to buy property in the UK as it is for people “actually living here”.

So we are saying we will have a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on those foreign transactions. That should make housing more affordable especially for first time buyers.

The party hopes the new policy will help ease demand in the housing market. Mr Sunak — a rising star in the party, who is expected to represent the prime minister in one of the major TV debates — was keen to paint the Tories as the party of home ownership.

He said that while Labour had written off owning a home as a “national obsession”, the Tories saw it as a “dream” and “an aspiration very much worth supporting”.


Business leaders bristle at Labour proposals

The reaction to Labour’s radical manifesto continues to roll in. And the corporate world is not thrilled.

Business leaders and investors have expressed alarm over policies that would lead to higher corporate and wealth taxes, forced nationalisation and mandatory employee ownership, write Dan Thomas and Attracta Mooney.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised a new levy on multinationals to raise up to £6.3bn every year and an increase in corporation tax from 19 per cent to 26 per cent at a cost to industry of £23.7bn.

At an individual level, Labour said it would tax capital gains at income tax rates, reverse cuts to inheritance tax, impose value-added-tax on private school fees and introduce a second homes tax.

These taxes, the party said, were aimed at “the super-rich, companies who have benefited from tax cuts since 2010, the City, multinationals who hide their profits in tax havens, and those who have benefited from the forest of tax reliefs that have sprouted up with barely any scrutiny”.

But experts warned that the policies might deter investment, and push higher earners abroad.

One UK-based global asset manager said:

There are some pretty radical policies in there that would scare investors. As an investor, I would be very nervous [of a Labour government]. Foreign investors would be concerned about whether Britain would be a good place to do business.

For more on the business reaction to Labour’s proposals, check out Dan and Attracta’s full piece here.


FT explainer: A brief guide to the general election

Confused about the election? Wondering where the parties stand on the key issues?

In this video, FT political correspondent Laura Hughes gives a rundown on everything Brexit, the economy and the National Health Service.

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McDonnell: ‘We need to invest’

The shadow chancellor John McDonnell has been doing the media rounds this morning, defending Labour’s manifesto and, in particular, its plans to ramp up taxes to the tune of £83bn.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said Labour’s proposals would create the biggest tax burden since the Second World War. But Mr McDonnell made no apologies and insisted the country was crying out for investment.

It is high. I don’t hesitate from that whatsoever. Because we’ve had 10 years of austerity under the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Our public services are in a terrible state and we do need to invest. Our economy is stagnating.

But he was adamant that in income tax terms only “the highest earners will pay a bit more”.

We’ve got to be honest, it does mean raising taxes, but I’ve been trying to make sure that we protect those people who can least afford it.

The party also plans to increase corporation tax from 19p to 26p, which Mr McDonnell justified by saying they had gained from previous cuts to the tax.



UK private sector activity falls by most in three years

UK private sector activity deteriorated by the most in three years in November, as uncertainty surrounding the election and Brexit hurt domestic demand, reports Valentina Romei.

The flash IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index combining the services and manufacturing sectors came in at 48.5 — its lowest reading since July 2016.

The data knocked the pound, with sterling down 0.3 per cent against the dollar at $1.2870 shortly after its release.

“The decline signalled by the flash PMI follows stagnation in October and adds to what has been the survey’s worst spell since the recession of 2008-9,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

The flash PMI for services — which account for about 80 per cent of the economy — dropped to 48.6 in November, from 50 in October. This was below economists’ expectation of no change and below the 50 mark which separates expansion from contraction.

The flash PMI index for manufacturing also fell to 48.3 in November, from 49.6 in the previous month dragging down the composite index.

Mr Williamson commented:

The weak survey data puts the economy on course for a 0.2% drop in GDP in the fourth quarter, and also pushes the PMI further into territory that would normally be associated with the Bank of England adding more stimulus to the economy.

Respondents to the survey largely attributed weaker domestic economic conditions to a lack of clarity in relation to Brexit as well as added uncertainty from the forthcoming general election.


Markets round-up: Stocks picking up

European equity markets are looking healthier this morning than they have all week.

After four straight days of decline over concerns on deteriorating US-China relations, the composite Stoxx Europe 600 is up 0.4 per cent this morning.

London’s FTSE led the gains, notching up a sizeable 1.1 per cent rise. The Dax in Frankfurt and Cac40 in Paris meanwhile were both up 0.2 per cent.

Sterling was down 0.3 per cent against the dollar at $1.2878 after a survey showed UK private sector activity deteriorating by the most in three years in November.


The Brexit party’s non-manifesto manifesto

Among the manifestos being launched today is that of the Brexit party. Only, it won’t be a manifesto, according to Nigel Farage. Instead, the party is issuing a “contract with the British people”.

Writing in the Telegraph ahead of the launch, expected around 11am, Mr Farage said people no longer trust the word manifesto.

Parties make promises in their manifestos which they think voters want to hear, yet have no intention of keeping them. For these reasons, The Brexit Party is instead launching a contract with the British people.

The Brexit party has been in the spotlight over where it plans to stand candidates for the election, due to Conservative fears it might split the Leave vote. Mr Farage has agreed to stand down from more than 300 Tory-held seats for this reason, but insisted the party would contest Labour-held constituencies.

Ahead of today’s launch Mr Farage has given an outline of the party’s key policies, which seem to be largely based on things he wants to get rid of. Here is a run down of what the party is pledging to do:

• Implement a “clean break” from all EU institutions.
• Scrap the current postal vote register
• Abolish the House of Lords
• Cut immigration to no more than 50,000 people a year
• Introduce a £10,000 minimum threshold on corporation tax


Environment in focus as Plaid Cymru launch manifesto

Adam Price, leader of the Plaid Cymru, has been launching the Welsh nationalist party’s manifesto in the town of Nantgarw outside Cardiff.

Calling for politicians to “inject some hope back into our politics” Mr Price put the environment at the centre of the party’s election platform.

Let 2030 be the year of three zeros: zero carbon, zero waste, zero poverty

Plaid wants Westminster to allocate an extra 1 per cent of gross domestic product to invest in green infrastructure over the next 10 years, which would give Wales an additional £15bn to pump into environmentally friendly projects.

On top of this, it wants Wales’ borrowing limit to be increased to £5bn, which it said would give it a total war chest of £20bn to tackle the climate emergency.

Mr Price said Wales could become the “cradle of a green jobs revolution” and pledged to make the country fully self-sustainable in renewable energy over the next decade, a process he said could create “tens of thousands” of highly skilled jobs.


Emoticon Nigel Farage launches Brexit party’s policies

Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit party, has launched his party’s election policies with a promise to hold Boris Johnson to his word over the UK’s future relationship with Europe. 

Mr Farage said the party has “already changed the landscape of British politics” in its short existence, and promised to exert a similar influence in the years to come. 

The Brexit party is not standing in more than 300 Tory-held seats in the election, but Mr Farage said his party would “hold Boris Johnson to his word” to negotiate a future relationship which includes the ability to diverge from EU rules and standards. 

While such freedom is key to Mr Farage’s interpretation of Brexit, it would come with a price. As the FT’s Brussels bureau has written this week, the question of how closely the UK sticks to EU rules will be a key sticking point in negotiations, with the bloc guided by the principle that the further the UK diverges, the more restricted its access to the single market. 


Jeremy Corbyn: 95 per cent will not pay more income tax

Ninety-five per cent of UK workers will not pay more income tax, Jeremy Corbyn has insisted, a day after the Labour party unveiled its manifesto with plans to increase taxes by £83bn.

“We have been very straight: 95 per cent of the population will not pay any more income tax; the richest 5 per cent will pay a bit more, the biggest corporations will pay more,” the Labour party leader said on a visit to a pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent where he painted Christmas trees on the ceramics.

The comments come after the party’s plans to make those on salaries of over £80,000 – the top 5 per cent of earners – pay “a little more” in income tax led to a heated exchange on BBC’s Question Time last night.

We have costed it very, very carefully, produced a very full costings through our grey book, and the information is all there and out there – 95 per cent will not pay any more.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said Labour’s proposals would create the biggest tax burden since the second world war. John McDonnell, Mr Corbyn’s shadow chancellor, earlier made no apologies for the tax plans and insisted the country was crying out for investment.


‘Winter comes early’ for the UK economy

The UK’s economic outlook is darkening, according to a set of closely watched surveys of private sector activity.

An index tracking the activity of the service and manufacturing sectors, compiled by research group IHS Markit, fell to 48.5 this month — its lowest reading since July 2016.

“Winter comes early,” said economists at Barclays, who added the figures “painted a grim outlook for the UK economy.”

“Brexit uncertainty and fresh political jitters ahead of the December general elections have led to renewed weakness.”

Rupert Harrison, portfolio manager at Blackrock and former economic adviser to the Cameron government, said that an end to short term uncertainty should lead to “a decent bounce back.”

He said in a tweet:

“This doesn’t look good for the UK economy, but equally getting the Brexit deal through parliament ASAP and resolving the short term uncertainty should lead to a decent bounce back – plenty of pent up investment to be released.”


Voter registration deadline looms

Voters have until midnight on Tuesday to register for the December 12 election, which they can do online here.

Those 18 and over are eligible for the UK general election if they register by 11:59pm on November 26. The deadline for postal votes in England, Scotland or Wales is at 5pm, while if you plan to be abroad on the day you can apply to vote by proxy. It is too late to apply to vote by post or proxy if you live in Northern Ireland, the government website says.

Jeremy Corbyn, in Stoke-on-Trent at a pottery factory, received this reminder:


Swinson confronted in Glasgow over austerity

Jo Swinson has joined the ranks of party leaders getting caught up in awkward exchanges with members of the public.

On the streets of Glasgow, the Liberal Democrat leader was confronted by a young voter who said it was “rich” of her to be campaigning in the city because of the party’s record on austerity while in coalition with the Conservatives.

“People are dying here in poverty because of what you have done on austerity,” the voter said, indicating he planned to vote for Labour. “I just think it’s unforgivable what you’ve done to Glasgow, cities like this.”

Ms Swinson responded that she would encourage him to “look at what our plans are for the future”.

The exchange adds to a list of uncomfortable encounters for party leaders on the campaign trail.

Last week, Boris Johnson had a number of difficult brushes with members of the public in South Yorkshire, following flooding in the region, with some locals refusing to speak to him. Jeremy Corbyn was called a “terrorist sympathiser” by an onlooker in Glasgow.


Parachuting into Wakefield

No one wants to be accused of “parachuting” into a constituency. The phrase is typically used to attack a party apparatchik who lands in a safe seat far from their London home, writes the FT’s Andy Bounds.

But Imran Ahmed Khan, the new Conservative candidate in Wakefield, has embraced the term. The counter-terrorism expert jumped out of an airplane (tied to an instructor) to announce his arrival in West Yorkshire.

The previous Tory candidate in the key West Yorkshire target pulled out after the media uncovered old Facebook posts denigrating his opponent Mary Creagh and people who use food banks. Mr Khan was keen to point out that he was born and raised in the city before travelling the world trying to resolve conflicts.

He has a tough task, as the seat, in former coal mining country, has been Labour since 1932. But Ms Creagh’s majority is just over 2,100 votes and a majority back Brexit while she has called for a second referendum.

If Mr Khan is parachuting into Westminster on December 13, it will be an indicator of a Conservative majority.


Breaking down the Brexit party’s policies

The FT’s Whitehall editor James Blitz has more details from the Brexit party’s election launch this morning:

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is putting calls for “a political revolution” at the heart of its general election prospectus, demanding the overhaul of the UK voting system, abolition of the House of Lords and “political scrutiny” of top judges.

Unveiling what he called a “Contract with the People,” Mr Farage said that the “political establishment” had “conspired to frustrate democracy” when it came to implementing Brexit over the last three years.

His party is therefore committed to pursuing a programme of “fundamental political reform,” including overhaul of the upper house of parliament and reforming the UK Supreme Court so that “judges who play a role in politics must be subject to political scrutiny.”

Other political reforms proposed by Mr Farage include “requiring civil servants to sign an oath to act with political neutrality” and holding a national referendum whenever 5m people back a petition for one.

Mr Farage said he was not calling his party’s political programme a “manifesto” arguing this has become a “dirty word” to describe “a set of vague promises that its authors have no intention of keeping.


Scottish Labour vows to fight to stay in EU as it launches manifesto

Mure Dickie reports from Glasgow:

Scottish Labour has promised to campaign vigorously to remain in the EU if there is a second Brexit referendum, highlighting a sharply different approach to the issue from that taken by the UK party.

“We will campaign flat-out for Remain,” Richard Leonard Scottish Labour leader said at the launch of the party’s general election manifesto for Scotland in Glasgow on Friday.

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said a Labour government would seek to renegotiate Brexit and then give voters a final say in a second referendum on whether to leave the EU.

While Mr Corbyn had refused to say which side he might back in such a vote, Mr Leonard has positioned Labour as strongly against Brexit in Scotland, which voted 62-38 per cent to stay in the EU in 2016.

The pledge to campaign for Remain is included in the Scottish Labour manifesto and Mr Leonard said he expected all members of parliament elected from Scotland to abide by it.

“Jeremy Corbyn understands the position that we’ve taken in the Scottish Labour party…there’s no great division about that at all,” he said.

Labour activists hope that the radical and left-wing policies set out in the UK Labour manifesto will shore up support for the party — which polls suggest could lose many of the seven Westminster seats it won in 2017. However, many Labour promises are in devolved policy areas under the control of the Scottish National party government in Edinburgh.

Mr Leonard said increased UK spending would result in much greater financial resources for the Scottish government and the SNP would come under pressure to match Labour policies even before the next Scottish parliamentary elections in 2021.

Scottish Labour also on Friday called for all school children in Scotland to be entitled to one free meal every day of the year and promised a £2bn “People’s Green Bus Fund” to finance low-carbon vehicles for council-owned bus services.


Voters remain skeptical of major parties

The release of Labour’s radical manifesto yesterday underlined the stark contrast between it and the Conservatives.

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed a socialist shake-up of the UK with policy pledges ranging from large-scale nationalisation to increasing taxes to the tune of £83bn.

But away from questions of policy, it seems voters are not convinced there is too much between the two major players in Westminster.

New polling by Ipsos MORI shows that on issues such as keeping their promises and understanding the problems facing the country, the two parties score almost identically — and not in a good way.

In these areas at least, it seems voter cynicism is alive and well.

But in other areas there remain vast chasms between the two.

The Conservatives are still seen as a steadier pair of hands when it comes to running the country. Labour, meanwhile, are still seen by voters as the party that cares about the vulnerable.


FT Archive: Back to 1983

Labour’s general election manifesto, released yesterday, contains the party’s most radical prospectus since defeat by Margaret Thatcher under Michael Foot in 1983.

Surveys during this campaign have suggested public support for many of the individual policies, but it is still too early to tell how they will be received when packaged together as a left-wing programme for government.

Foot’s manifesto, memorably dubbed the longest suicide note in history by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, included a massive programme of public investment, unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the European Economic Community.

In May 1983, the FT’s political correspondent wrote that the party’s shadow cabinet “was determined to show that Labour’s programme was not irresponsible but had been costed carefully and was in line with policies proposed in other countries.”

The FT’s editorial board was far from convinced. In a leader titled ‘A loser’s manifesto’ it argued that the manifesto seemed aimed at not so much at removing Margaret Thatcher as another salvo in the party’s long-running civil war.

It concluded:

It is simply a heap of aspirations, noble, ignoble and plain silly…As a whole it is a muddled, backward-looking dream- the welfare achievements of the 1940s, the command economy of the war and the blend of disarmament, protection and cheap food which indeed promoted rapid growth in the 1930s. This was also, it may be remembered, a period of seemingly permanent Conservative rule.”


FT Analysis: Bond markets no longer care very much about deficits

The UK’s bond market seems to be intensely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn, writes the FT’s markets reporter Tommy Stubbington.

On Thursday, the opposition leader unveiled a manifesto laden with promises of huge investment funded by borrowing. But investors are unworried about being asked to pay for it. Yields on government bonds are close to all-time lows, and big fund managers say hundreds of billions could be added to the national debt without an uncomfortable rise in the cost of borrowing.

The market calm, of course, partly reflects the low probability investors assign to Mr Corbyn’s Labour party winning next month’s general election. After all, the bond vigilantes have not all suddenly become socialists. Labour’s plans for swingeing nationalisations are certainly cause for worry, even if the sheer size of spending plans is not.

But it is also a sign of something bigger: bond markets no longer seem to care very much about deficits. The Conservative party, too, has pledged a spending splurge, and public sector net borrowing has already shot to a five-year high in October.

You can read the full analysis here.


That’s all from us for this week, but do check back for more election news through the weekend on FT.com.

Top of the agenda: the Conservative party will launch their manifesto on Sunday afternoon. The FT will have full coverage and analysis.

Have a great weekend.