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Brexit Bulletin: Spend, Spend, Spend and Save

David Goodman

Days to Brexit deadline: 72

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Today on the campaign trail: Boris Johnson reveals tax cuts, and the Lib Dems make a £50 billion case for remaining in the EU.

What’s happening? U.K. political parties are ramping up their spending pledges before next month’s election. The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats promise to use a “remain bonus” to fund public services, while the prime minister gave a glimpse into Conservative plans for tax cuts for workers.

After being excluded from last night’s election debate, the Lib Dems — who hold 20 of 650 seats in the House of Commons — tried to break into the spotlight today with a plan that leader Jo Swinson says “starts with stopping Brexit.” The party calculates that staying in the European Union would generate £50 billion more for the economy over five years than their rivals’ plans  — a positive twist on the usual assessments showing the damage of leaving.

The Lib Dems’ full manifesto, due out at 5 p.m. today, will pledge to generate 80% of energy from renewable sources by 2030; recruit 20,000 more teachers; and upgrade mental health services in the NHS. “Labour and the Conservatives can’t offer the country a brighter future because they both want Brexit,” Swinson said.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, in the key election battleground of northern England, Johnson seemed to reveal a key tax cut from his Conservative party’s manifesto. Johnson told engineering workers in Teeside that he aimed to let workers earn more before owing any contributions to the country’s national insurance benefits program, up from the current level of £8,632 for most workers. A party official later said that the plan, which will benefit 31 million people, will start at allowing £9,500 of income before the tax kicks in, with an ultimate target of £12,500 pounds — saving about £500. Labour, meanwhile, releases its manifesto tomorrow.

Today’s Must-Reads

Wall Street says the pound is a top currency bet for 2020, assuming the Conservatives win and break the Brexit deadlock, John Ainger reports. But it may not be that simple. This campaign, which was supposed to settle questions over Brexit, could instead mark the beginning of the end of the U.K. as we know it. Looking further ahead, the Financial Times is starting to talk about the brutal reckoning that awaits Britain once it enters talks with the EU over a future trade deal.

Brexit in Brief

Debate Verdict | A snap poll showed Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn effectively tied in last night’s first TV debate, in which 6.7 million viewers saw the two clash over trustworthiness, Brexit and the NHS. A fuller report digs deeper into audience impressions.

Which is Worse? | Bloomberg Opinion’s Therese Raphael writes that both party leaders are in thrall to a central idea — a hard Brexit or state socialism — that will carry a hefty cost for Britain.

Taxing Questions | Corbyn’s plan to make the top 5% of earners pay more income tax could raise less than the party thinks, according to a leading think tank. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the proposal could “raise up to around £6 billion or cost around £1 billion.”

SNP View | At a campaign event in Dundee, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish independence supporters shouldn’t be put off by the Brexit quagmire. “It’s that way on Brexit because of their dishonesty and their lack of planning,” she said. “These are mistakes the independence campaign didn’t make in 2014 and won’t make in future.”

Anti-Social Behavior? | Twitter warned that the Conservative Party was attempting to “mislead” voters by rebranding its account during the debate, pretending it was a fact-checking service. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the move. “I knock on doors every day. No one gives a toss about the social media cut-and-thrust,” he told the BBC. “What they care about is the substance of the issues.”

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To contact the author of this story: David Goodman in London at dgoodman28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Fleisher at lfleisher2@bloomberg.net

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