Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE
Boris Johnson. Picture: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

London — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit and a tax-cutting budget within 100 days of his Conservative Party winning the December 12 election — a widely predicted outcome that’s driving a rally in the pound.

Other early goals include a defence review, more funding for schools, and the introduction to parliament of legislation on immigration. The Tories sought to contrast their agenda for government with the “gridlock and uncertainty” that would result from a hung parliament — which the party described in a statement as “a very real possibility”.

“In just seven days time the British people will have to choose between a working majority government or yet another gridlocked hung parliament,” Johnson said in a statement. “If there is a Conservative majority next week, we will get Brexit done by the end of January. 2020 will then be the year we finally put behind us the arguments and uncertainty over Brexit. We will get parliament working.”

With a week to go until the vote, the Tories’ lead in the polls has been narrowing, though the ruling party still looks on course to win a majority. The pound rose for a fifth day on Thursday, headed for it longest winning streak since June, as traders continue to bet on a Conservative win in the election. It gained 0.3% to $1.3146.

A Johnson victory would make Brexit at the end of January 2020 a near certainty, triggering the next — and more complicated phase of negotiations to hammer out a new trading relationship with the EU — something the prime minister has said he can do by the end of 2020.

‘Years to come’

Labour issued a statement pointing back to nearly 3,500 “days of failure” under the Tories, saying more of the same won’t work. The Liberal Democrats called Johnson’s promises “pure fantasy”.

Under Johnson’s plans, a Queen’s speech outlining legislative priorities would be held on December 19, and Brexit would be delivered on January 31. A budget would follow in February.

“This is pure fantasy: a Tory government would remain completely consumed by Brexit not just for the next 100 days, but for years to come,” the Liberal Democrats’ finance spokesperson Ed Davey said in a statement. “We must prevent Johnson getting a blank check to crash Britain out of the EU by the end of 2020.”

Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson earlier gave a BBC interview in which she conceded she wasn’t likely to emerge from next week’s vote as prime minister, having started the campaign saying it was possible. “That’s not the most likely scenario.” 

While she repeated her position that she wouldn’t help Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn come to power, she suggested she could countenance her party supporting either the Tories or Labour under a different leader, with the goal of stopping Brexit in a second referendum.

“If Boris Johnson [or] Jeremy Corbyn don’t win a majority at this election, then there’s no guarantee they’re still going to be the ones leading their parties a week afterwards,” she said when asked if she’d be prepared to support Corbyn — or abstain — in key votes so as to secure a plebiscite. “Liberal Democrats will work to stop Brexit, we will support legislation that puts in place a people’s vote, and we will work across parties.”

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, categorically ruled out entering into any coalition government, telling ITV’s Peston show that her party would work to “lock Boris Johnson out of Downing Street”.

“We would look to have some sort of progressive alliance with other parties to do that if the parliamentary arithmetic allows it,” Sturgeon said. “The SNP will not go into a formal coalition.”

Bloomberg