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Johnson Says There’ll Be No U.S. Trade Deal if It Includes the NHS

Alex Morales and Andrew Atkinson
Johnson Says There’ll Be No U.S. Trade Deal if It Includes the NHS

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Boris Johnson is heading for a 68-seat majority in the House of Commons, a mandate not seen since the height of the Margaret Thatcher years, according to the most hotly-anticipated poll of the election campaign. A margin that size would allow him to ratify his Brexit deal ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline, and potentially give him some breathing space to compromise in subsequent trade negotiations with the European Union.

The Prime Minister, who refused to attend a TV debate on climate change with other party leaders on Thursday evening, said he would walk away from a U.S. trade deal after Brexit if President Donald Trump insists on keeping the National Health Service on the table.

Must Read: U.K. Election: The Key Party Promises

For more on the election visit ELEC.

Key Developments:

YouGov: Conservatives on course for 43% (359 seats), Labour 32% (211 seats), Liberal Democrats 14% (13 seats), SNP 3% (43 seats), Brexit Party 3% (0 seats)Pound rises as much as 0.2% in London before paring gainsJohnson tells ITV the election is still “a very tight race” and there’s a risk of a hung ParliamentThe Institute for Fiscal Studies said neither Conservatives nor Labour have credible spending plansLabour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and other party leaders debated climate change in a TV debate. Johnson didn’t show up and hosts Channel 4 turned away Michael Gove, who had been sent as a substitute.

Still ‘a Very Tight Race,’ Johnson Says (8 p.m.)

Boris Johnson insisted in an interview with ITV that the election is still “a very tight race” in spite of polls showing his Conservatives winning a comfortable majority.

“There is a genuine risk that there could be a Corbyn, Sturgeon coalition,” he said.

Johnson: No U.S. Deal if NHS Included (7:15 p.m.)

Boris Johnson insisted the National Health Service will not be on the table in trade talks with the U.S. after Brexit and said he would walk away if President Donald Trump insists on keeping it in the negotiations.

“Goodbye, we’d say see you then, that would be it,” Johnson said when asked how he would respond if Trump insists on discussing U.S. access to the state funded health system. “There’s be no point in continuing the conversation.”

Labour said on Wednesday that Johnson’s Tories have been involved in secret talks with the U.S. and produced documents which they said showed the two sides have already discussed access for U.S. corporations and pharmaceutical companies to the service.

“The NHS is one of the greatest things about British society, it’s loved and admired around the world. Why would you do something as stupid as that,” Johnson said in an interview with ITV.

Read More: Corbyn Accuses U.K. Tories of Secret NHS Talks With the U.S.

Labour Donations Beat Tories in 2nd Week (3 p.m.)

Donations to the Labour Party topped those to the Conservatives in the second week of the election campaign. In the week of Nov. 13-19, Labour reaped 3.49 million pounds ($4.5 million), compared to 2.97 million pounds for the Conservatives, according to a statement from the Electoral Commission. The Brexit Party was given 2.25 million pounds and the Liberal Democrats 251,000 pounds, the commission said.

The Electoral Commission release, which only details donations of more than 7,500 pounds, includes a 2 million-pound gift for the Brexit Party from Christopher Harborne, a businessman. Most of Labour’s total in the official data came from Unite, the labor union, which donated 3 million pounds, but the party said Wednesday it had also been given more than 2.5 million pounds in small donations in the month since the election was called -- 98% of it in amounts of 100 pounds or less.

It’s a turnaround from the first week of the campaign, when the Tory total of 5.7 million pounds eclipsed Labour’s 218,500 pounds and the Liberal Democrats’ 275,000 pounds.

Liberal Democrats Step Up Attack on Johnson (12 p.m.)

Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson said Prime Minister Boris Johnson is driven by a “sense of Etonian entitlement” rather than any “burning desire to make people’s lives better,” as she seeks to position her party as the only one that can take seats off the Conservatives.

In a speech titled “The Problem with Boris Johnson,” Swinson said most people are in politics “for the right reasons” and suggested the prime minister doesn’t care about ordinary people. “Boris Johnson only cares about Boris Johnson and he will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever or whoever is needed to get what he wants,” Swinson said.

The problem for Swinson is that polls show her message is not cutting through with voters. According to the latest YouGov projection, the Liberal Democrats are on course to gain just one extra seat in the Dec. 12 vote.

Javid Says He’s ‘Confident’ on Policy Costings (12 p.m.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said he’s “confident” about the costings and funding for the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledges, after the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank accused both Labour and the Tories (see 10 a.m.) of lacking credibility on their spending plans.

“We have been very clear with our spending commitments in this election,” Javid told reporters during a campaign visit to Darlington, according to the Press Association. “We have a very detailed costings document -- the most detailed I would say that any party has published in any British election -- so I’m very confident about that.”

Javid also attacked Labour’s plans, saying they would trigger a loss of confidence in the U.K. economy.

IFS Says Tory, Labour Spending Plans Not Credible (10 a.m.)

The Institute for Fiscal Studies offered a damning analysis of both the Conservatives’ and Labour’s election pledges, and warned voters to expect higher taxes than either party has outlined.

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour have outlined vastly different offerings for voters. While Corbyn is promising a generational shift in public spending along with sweeping nationalization plans, the ruling party is presenting a more fiscally conservative approach, offering themselves up as the responsible alternative to Labour’s radical ideas.

But according to the IFS, neither party has a “properly credible prospectus.” In its assessment, the Tories will end up spending more than planned, and so will have to raise taxes or borrow more, and Labour won’t be able to deliver on the investment plans on the scale it imagines. In the longer term, Labour would also need to raise more funding, and the IFS says it would have to hike income taxes on more than just the top 5% of earners.

Read more: Think Tank Criticizes Fiscal Plans of Both Major Parties

Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ Problem (9:30 a.m.)

Wednesday night’s YouGov poll showed Labour winning no new seats and watching the crumbling of its so-called red wall of districts in the north of England -- examples include Bishop Auckland, Great Grimsby and Bolsover -- which are traditionally Labour, but also strongly in favor of Brexit and now forecast to fall to the Tories.

So far, Corbyn’s party has focused on trying to ensure it doesn’t lose votes to the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, and its policy to hold a second referendum on Brexit reflects that. But the YouGov poll shows Labour must now find a way to win support back from the Tories among voters committed to leaving the bloc. It’s likely that the party will shift its message in the coming days.

But there’s plenty of uncertainty in the YouGov forecast. Of the predicted Conservative gains, 30 were by less than 5%. And the poll itself could change behavior. By offering a seat-by-seat prediction, it could enable voters who oppose Brexit or the Conservatives to see how best to vote against Johnson.

Read more: Key Poll Predicts Big Majority for Johnson to Deliver Brexit

Hancock: Patents, Drugs Off Table in U.S. Talks (Earlier)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock used his broadcast round to hit back at Labour’s accusations (see Labour’s Gardiner earlier) that a Conservative government would allow the National Health Service to be used as a negotiating chip in U.S. trade talks.

“We do want a trade deal with the U.S. and we have been absolutely clear that the NHS will not be part of it,” Hancock told BBC radio. “We are crystal clear that it isn’t an area on which we’re prepared to give ground.”

He also said drug pricing will not be on the table during the negotiations, and ruled out discussions on changes to drug-patent rules.

“Why would we give the Americans more money for drugs when I spend my time battling to get drugs onto the NHS at a price the NHS can afford?” he said. “The point of trade deals is to get prices down, not to have prices up.”

Labour Keeps Up NHS Attack Line (Earlier)

Labour’s trade spokesman Barry Gardiner warned that Boris Johnson’s approach to a U.S. trade deal would lead to further privatization on the National Health Service. His comments continued Labour’s attack lines from Wednesday, when the opposition party published government accounts of meetings between British and American trade officials.

Gardiner told BBC radio that the documents showed officials discussed longer patents to protect drug makers and, he said, illustrated how U.S. companies might get full market access to the U.K. health service.

“The potential cost of that to the NHS would just pull the guts out of the services that we were able to provide for people and force further privatization,” he said. “This is how you destroy the health service from within. You force people to go private by not being able any longer to provide a full comprehensive range of services.”

Parties Likely to Break New Fiscal Rules (Earlier)

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid and his opposition rival John McDonnell are on course to break the fiscal rules they announced less than a month ago, according to research claims by the Resolution Foundation.

Even a tiny downgrade to the economic outlook could force a Tory government to raise taxes, return to austerity or abandon its new rules, the London-based think tank said. A Labour government would find itself in a similar position and have to row back on several big manifesto commitments.

Earlier:

Key Poll Predicts Big Majority for Johnson to Deliver BrexitU.K. Election: The Key Party PromisesU.K. Parties Given Little Chance of Achieving New Fiscal RulesIs Corbyn an Anti-Semite? It No Longer Matters: Therese Raphael

--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman, Robert Hutton and Fergal O'Brien.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Mark Williams

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