(Bloomberg) — Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.
Boris Johnson said he is being kept updated on an incident at London Bridge amid reports of a stabbing and gun shots just yards from where there was a terrorist attack during the 2017 general election. Police said they are “currently responding to this incident as though it is terror-related,” although the circumstances are still unclear.
Read More: Police Close London Bridge Amid Reports of Stabbing, Gun Shots
Earlier the prime minister sought to recapture the spirit of the 2016 referendum as he tried to convince Brexit supporters he still needs their votes even though polls show him on course for election victory next month. He promised tougher rules on foreign takeovers and the provision of state aid to help British companies.
Johnson warned against complacency, saying there is still a risk of a coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn, even after polling analysis suggested the Labour party could lose districts it has held for decades.
Must Read: The Tories Secretly Fear Trump Could Wreck Johnson’s Election
For more on the election visit ELEC.
Johnson and Michael Gove appear at a press conference in London alongside anti-EU former Labour MP Gisela Stuart in a reprise of the 2016 Brexit referendumStuart urges traditional Labour supporters to vote Conservative to deliver BrexitTories pledge tougher rules on foreign takeovers; Johnson says U.K. must be open to Chinese investment but must strike a “balance” on security concernsLiberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson speaks in Cardiff at 2:30 p.m. on interfaith relations and policingThe BBC holds a 7-way party debate at 7 p.m. — though Johnson and Corbyn will not take partThere is a 71% chance of a Conservative majority, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes
Johnson Being Kept Updated on London Incident (3:10 p.m.)
Boris Johnson said he’s being kept informed about the unfolding incident at London Bridge, in which there have been reports of gunshots and stabbings. Police said they are “currently responding to this incident as though it is terror-related.”
Armed police locked down the bridge and evacuated the area. The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that after being called to a stabbing at a premises nearby, they had detained one man. A number of people have been injured, they said.
“I’m being kept updated on the incident at London Bridge and want to thank the police and all emergency services for their immediate response,” Johnson said on Twitter.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also posted on Twitter, saying she’s “very concerned by ongoing incident at London Bridge. My thoughts are with all affected.” She urged people to follow the advice of the police. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he’s in “close contact” with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Corbyn in Fresh Attack on Billionaires (12:45 p.m.)
Jeremy Corbyn opened a new broadside on billionaires opposing his plans for a re-distributive socialist economy after The Daily Mail and General Trust bought the i newspaper in a 50 million pound deal ($64.5 million).
“Two billionaire press barons now own half of the top 10 daily newspapers,” Corbyn said in a posting on Twitter. “Remember this when they attack Labour’s plan to make the super-rich pay their fair share.”
“We are committed to preserving its distinctive, high quality and politically independent editorial style,” DMGT said in a statement on its acquisition of the i newspaper.
Free Trade Group Attacks State Aid Proposals (12:20 p.m.)
The Adam Smith Institute, a think tank aimed at promoting free trade which had close links with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said it was disappointed with Boris Johnson’s plan to change state aid rules and procurement provisions to make it easier to support British companies, calling it a “form of Trumpian protectionism.”
“We shouldn’t free ourselves from the European Union in order to just enslave ourselves to the whims of Whitehall,” said Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute. “Making a profit is a proof of the value added to society, and there must be no business that is too big to fail.”
Tories Pledge Tougher Foreign Takeover Rules (12:05 p.m.)
The Conservatives plan to strengthen protections against foreign takeovers of British companies, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said, in answer to a question about Chinese investment in the U.K.
“We certainly don’t believe that the current provisions which are in place are robust enough,” Gove said at a press conference. He said he’s undertaken to “strengthen” a unit in his department that examines foreign takeovers, and “strengthen protections in the future.”
Speaking alongside him, Boris Johnson agreed, before saying the country must strike a “balance” between “continuing to be open to investment from China” and making sure the U.K. doesn’t do anything “that prejudices our critical national infrastructure, our security, or do anything that would compromise our ability to cooperate with five-eyes security partners.”
“Those are the parameters,” Johnson said. “I am very, very far from a Sinophobe. I want to have good relations with China, but there are clear difficulties and clear boundaries that we have to set.”
U.K.’s No-Deal Preparations to Continue (12 p.m.)
Boris Johnson confirmed the U.K. will continue to make preparations for a disorderly exit from the European Union. “Of course the preparations will remain extant,” he said. “There’s no reason to dismantle them.”
He described the preparations which he put in place prior to the Oct. 31 deadline as being “thoroughly useful” in achieving the deal made with the EU, as it convinced Brussels the U.K. was “in earnest” about leaving.
Johnson said he is confident of completing a deal with the EU by the end of 2020 and “sees no reason” to extend that deadline, meaning the U.K. crashing out without a deal is still a possibility.
State Aid Plan Compatible With EU: Johnson (11:50 a.m.)
Taking questions from the press after his speech, Boris Johnson said that “of course” the U.K.’s new state aid rules (see 11:35 a.m.) would be compatible with those of the European Union, dismissing the idea that they could endanger a new free trade deal with the bloc.
“Were there to be any issues arising, then as you know, under any big free trade deal, there’s a joint committee to arbitrate on whether some unfair subsidy or dispensation has been made,” Johnson said. “But it would be a committee of sovereign equals.”Johnson later said he believed in competition and in a “level playing field.”
Tories Vow to Change Public Procurement (11:40 a.m)
The Tories vowed to break away from EU state aid rules that the party said have a “chilling effect” on government support for industry, because of the need to wait for “months or years” for decisions on whether measures by member states are permissible or not.
Existing rules “mean that the U.K. government cannot take steps to quickly and effectively help companies that are in danger,” the Conservative Party said in the statement. New rules will be developed in consultation with British businesses, it said.
The Tories promised a new state aid system that sets out clear principles when the government will intervene, based on the U.K.’s needs. Ministers will have “more discretion” over decisions, which they will be able to take within “days.” A new government body would be set up to manage the system, the party said.
On public procurement, the Tories pledged to ditch “absurdly complex” EU rules with their “pointless tendering requirements.” It also promised “simpler and cheaper” regulations that are “geared towards supporting local business and promoting British business.” The new system will be in place by Jan. 2021.
Tories Announce State Aid Plans (11:35 a.m.)
The Conservatives unveiled a package of measures that they described as “immediate steps to realize the benefits of Brexit,” including a pledge to overhaul the country’s state aid system to make it “faster and easier for the government to intervene to protect jobs when an industry is in trouble.”
A Tory government will also change public procurement policy to support local businesses and promote a “buy British” approach for public bodies that purchase food, in an effort to back farmers, the party said in an email.
“People voted to take back control — and we want to deliver that change,” Johnson said in a statement. “One of the crucial ways we will do that is by improving our rules so that we can back British businesses and unleash their true potential.”
Stuart Tells Labour Voters to Back Johnson (11:30 a.m.)
Gisela Stuart, the former Labour MP who helped run the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, urged traditional Labour voters to back the Conservatives in what she called the Dec. 12 “Brexit election.”
“Voting for Brexit this time does not make me a Tory now or in the future,” Stuart said as she stood alongside Johnson and Michael Gove. “Rather, it is the best option.”
Labour Step Up Pressure Over Johnson Comments (10:40 a.m.)
Labour criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson over past remarks he made about single mothers in a column from the 1990s (See 10 a.m.)
“Boris Johnson’s refusal to apologize for his hateful comments about single mothers, their children and working class men is an absolute disgrace,” Labour’s education spokeswoman, Angela Rayner, who has herself been a single mother, said in a statement. “He tried to deny what he wrote, but the evidence is there in black and white for us all to see, proving once again that he’s a liar as well as a sexist.”
Johnson Signals to Trump to Stay Quiet (10:15 a.m.)
Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit to the U.K. next week, Boris Johnson said the two allies “traditionally” do not get involved in each others’ domestic politics — an apparent signal to the U.S. president not to say anything that could potentially undermine the Conservative Party’s election campaign.
“We have very close relationships with the United States at every level of government, but what we don’t do traditionally — as loving allies and friends — is get involved in each other’s election campaigns,” Johnson told LBC radio.
The comment comes amid Tory party fears of an intervention by the president in the run-up to the Dec. 12 vote. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is using Johnson’s links to the president and pursuit of a post-Brexit U.S. trade as a central attack line in the campaign, especially on the potential dangers to Britain’s state-run National Health Service.
Johnson pointed out that former President Barack Obama’s intervention in the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign didn’t help the government’s argument for staying in the European Union. Obama’s comments were “not entirely conducive to the good of that cause,” he said.
Johnson Under Fire for Controversial Comments (10 a.m.)
Boris Johnson said the quotation of comments from his newspaper columns about Muslims, black people and single mothers were a “distortion” of his true views. In a 1995 article republished this week, he blamed single mothers for “producing a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children.”
“These are 25 year old quotations culled from articles written before I was even in politics,” Johnson said in response to an angry call from a single mother to a phone-in on LBC. “Almost invariably when you look at these articles what the actual piece is saying the opposite of what is claimed.” Johnson also refused to say how many children he has and whether he is involved in all of their lives.
The description of single mothers was not the first time Johnson’s comments have attracted condemnation. He has previously come under fire for referring to black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles,” while last year he used the terms “bank robber” and “letterbox” to describe Muslim women who wear burqas.
Johnson also refused to say whether Jacob Rees-Mogg would still be in his cabinet if he wins the election after the leader of the House of Commons suggested people could have survived the Grenfell Tower fire if they’d shown “common sense” to escape. “I’m not going to get into measuring up the curtains type conversations,” Johnson said.
Johnson Defends Tory Plans on NHS (9:40 a.m.)
During his Q&A appearance on LBC radio, Boris Johnson was repeatedly challenged on his Conservative Party’s plans for the National Health Service. He acknowledged that a pledge to add 50,000 nurses actually includes persuading 19,000 to stay in the profession — a discrepancy that opposition parties have said shows the Tories are misleading voters.
“I do understand the controversy about this,” Johnson said, referring to the 19,000 figure. “The risk is that they will leave the profession and we’re putting in the funds to ensure they will stay.”
Britain’s beloved state-run NHS is a key battleground in the election campaign after Labour accused Johnson of using it as a bargaining chip in talks with the U.S. on a post-Brexit trade deal. The prime minister reiterated on Friday that’s not the case, calling it “Bermuda Triangle stuff” from Corbyn’s party.
Johnson was also on the back foot over his widely disputed plan to build 40 new hospitals, with opposition parties arguing the real number is only six. The prime minister was forced to acknowledge that some voters will not regard hospital refurbishments and upgrades as new hospitals. He also said the Conservative manifesto does not include a plan to resolve the crisis in social care because the precise details have not been “thrashed out” — despite it being a key pledge in his first speech as prime minister.
Johnson: Working on ‘About a Dozen’ Trade Deals (9:15 a.m.)
Boris Johnson could not give a figure for how many trade deals the U.K. has ready ahead of its departure from the EU. “I can’t give the answer to how many deals are actually formalized,” he said in a phone-in with listeners on LBC radio. “There are a number that are virtually ready to go.”
“I imagine we have about a dozen we’re currently working on,” he said, naming China, India, New Zealand and Australia as examples.
If his Conservative Party wins a working majority, the U.K. will leave the EU on Jan. 31, Johnson said. A trade deal will also be agreed with the bloc by the end of 2020, he said: “I see no reason to go beyond that deadline,” he told listeners.
Williamson Denies Tory Threat to Channel 4 (9 a.m.)
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson denied the Conservative Party is threatening to review Channel 4’s broadcasting license following its decision not to allow Cabinet minister Michael Gove to sub in for Boris Johnson in a leaders’ debate on climate change on Thursday.
Speaking on BBC radio, Williamson said the party has raised a complaint with the broadcasting regulator Ofcom. The row came after Johnson declined to appear in the debate, sending Gove in his place. Channel 4 refused to allow Gove, who appeared at the venue with his own television crew, to take part — on the basis that the invitation was to the leaders of the political parties.
“The Conservative Party isn’t threatening Channel 4, we’re raising a complaint with Ofcom which is perfectly legitimate,” Williamson said. “Frankly they reduced the quality of the debate that happened yesterday by refusing to let Michael Gove go on.” The Telegraph cited a source in the Tory party it didn’t identify as saying Channel 4’s public broadcasting license is under threat.
McDonnell: Johnson ‘Running Scared’ (Earlier)
Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell said Boris Johnson is “running scared” from scrutiny after the prime minister refused to attend a leaders debate on climate change on Thursday evening. He has also refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, who has the reputation of being one of the BBC’s most forensic interviewers.
“The reason he is doing it is because he thinks like, you know, his Bullingdon Club friends, that they’re above the rest of us,” McDonnell said. “Because he knows that Andrew Neil will take him apart. He’s running scared. But even if he does it now, he’s played you because he’s pushing it later and later beyond the postal vote returns.”
The Conservatives wrote to OfCom, the media regulator, on Thursday evening to complain that Channel 4, the host of the climate debate, had replaced Johnson with a melting ice sculpture during the debate.
Labour is not changing its strategy, McDonnell said, denying reports that the party is switching its focus to leave voting areas after polling showed that it was set to lose seats in its north of England hearltlands.
The Tories Secretly Fear Trump Could Wreck Johnson’s ElectionU.K. Consumer Confidence Lowest Heading Into Election Since 2010Johnson Warns Against Complacency Over Lead: U.K. Campaign TrailTories Riled After Iceblock Replaces U.K. PM in Climate Debate
To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Ritchie in London at email@example.com;Alex Morales in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Tim Ross in London at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.