The winner of Britain’s Dec. 12 election will get to decide what to do about Brexit, how to run the world’s fifth-largest economy and which public service reforms to prioritise. The ruling Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson, face Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Both will have to defend themselves against the centrist Liberal Democrats and the newly-formed eurosceptic Brexit Party.
Below is a summary of the main parties’ positions on the big issues:
The Conservatives want to leave the EU as soon as possible with the exit deal Johnson negotiated in Brussels this month.
Labour want to negotiate their own exit deal and put it to a referendum alongside an option to stay in the EU. They have not decided which side they would campaign for in that referendum.
The Liberal Democrats want to cancel Brexit altogether if they win a majority, and if they fall short would support a second referendum.
The Brexit Party are pushing for a ‘Clean Break Brexit’ – broadly based on leaving without an overarching negotiated settlement with the EU. They say this would give Britain autonomy over its laws, border and money.
TAX AND SPEND
The Conservatives want to relax the rules governing public spending so they can invest more in infrastructure. Johnson has promised tax breaks for businesses and espoused an overall mantra of lower taxes. He has previously argued for income tax cuts for middle and lower earners.
Labour has set out plans for a large increase in spending on both public services and infrastructure. It has pledged to increase tax on high earners and cut corporations’ tax breaks.
The Liberal Democrats promise a major programme of capital investment and research and development to stimulate growth. They want to reform the tax system to make high earners and corporations pay more, while protecting low earners.
The Brexit Party argue broadly for lower taxes on citizens and businesses but have yet to set out detailed economic policies.
The Conservative Party have declared the ‘end of austerity’, indicating a desire to break with nearly a decade of public spending cuts that it has overseen in government. The focus of this campaign is investment in schools, hospitals and policing.
The Labour Party have gone further, arguing for the expansion of free public services to include personal care for the elderly, higher education, school meals and bus services for young people. Labour have also argued for widespread nationalisation of the water, electricity and rail industries.
The Liberal Democrats want to raise income tax to help fund the National Health Service and also say they would reverse cuts to school funding, and pay teachers more.
The Brexit Party have not promoted their plans for public services yet, but broadly seek to diminish the role of the state in citizens’ lives.
The Scottish National Party contest the 59 British parliamentary seats in Scotland. At the last election, they won 35 of them, making them the second largest opposition party in London.
The SNP is anti-Brexit and wants to see Scotland become an independent country inside the EU. It is staunchly opposed to a no-deal Brexit and would support a second referendum on whether to leave the EU.
Taxation and public service provision in Scotland are largely managed by the separate Scottish Parliament.