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Final opinion polls put Conservatives in the lead - but hung Parliament still a possibility

1 hour 57 minutes ago
Ballot box
Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm.

The Conservatives are heading for victory in the general election but another hung Parliament remains a possibility, according to the final batch of opinion polls.

A flurry of polls was published on the final day of the campaign, with one putting the Tories just five points ahead of Labour and another giving them a six-point lead.

However, most showed the Conservatives maintaining their 10-point advantage over their closest rivals, a result which would be enough to give Boris Johnson a Commons majority.

According to a Sevanta ComRes poll for the Daily Telegraph, the Conservatives are on 41%, while Labour are on 36%, the Lib Dems 12% and the Brexit Party 3%.

Meanwhile, ICM put the Tories on 42%, with support for Labour at 36%, the Lib Dems on 12% and the Brexit Party on 3%.

Other polls gave Mr Johnson a firmer lead, with Kantar's final survey putting the Tories 12 points clear of Labour on 44% to 32%.

Deltapoll's eve-of-election study similarly puts the Conservatives ahead on 45% to Labour's 35%.

Online pollster Qriously meanwhile gives the Conservatives a thirteen-point lead on 43%, with Labour trailing on just 30%.

The most anticipated poll of election day will be the joint Sky News, ITV and BBC exit poll, which is set to be unveiled at 10pm once all ballots are cast and counting begins across the country.

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of Savanta ComRes, said: “There is a huge range of possible outcomes, from a hung parliament to a robust Tory majority. The final Savanta ComRes poll of the campaign points to large numbers of reluctant Labour supporters, probably voting tactically but doing so without wanting to usher in a Corbyn-led majority government.

“A striking feature of this election is the large proportion of voters who simply cannot decide or may change who they vote for. Given the tightness of the battle, what those one in six undecided voters choose to do will almost certainly have a profound impact on the result and therefore on the future of this country."

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage predicted that the cold weather will help to give the Conservatives a majority of between3 0 and 40 seats.

The former Ukip boss predicted that "Labour absentionism" would be a key factor in Britain's first December vote for almost a century.

He said: "My great impression of this is that a lot of people who are Labour voters who may have voted Labour for generations, it is going to rain tomorrow and they are going to think 'are we really going to go out and vote for Jeremy Corbyn' so I think Labour absentionism could be a big factor."

'NASTY'

Mr Farage meanwhile told activists that his candidates had been "hounded and bombarded in the most extraordinary way" throughout the course of the election campaign.

And he told The Guardian: "I think generally the tone of politics has deteriorated hugely, but I think our people have been subjected, certainly online, to something quite extraordinary.

"Because there has been a mass campaign organised to try and get our candidates to withdraw from standing in the election."

He added: "[Independent Group for Change MP] Anna Soubry gets a few nasty words from some lout outside parliament and everybody is up in arms.

"That is nothing compared to what hundreds of ordinary decent people who have put themselves forward because they believe in something have suffered over the course of the last eight weeks."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in final rallying cries as Britain heads to the polls for 'knife-edge' election

2 hours 30 minutes ago
Polling station
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm - with an exit poll by the major broadcasters unveiled once they close.

Boris Johnson has said the election result is on a "knife edge" as voters head to the polls for Britain's third general election in less than five years.

The Prime Minister made his final pitch to voters as the last batch of pre-election polling saw a Tory lead ranging from a commanding thirteen points to just five.

Polling stations will open at 7am in all 650 constituencies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and will stay open until 10pm in Britain's first December election in almost a century.

In his final push of the campaign, Mr Johnson issued a direct appeal to voters in Labour-held marginal seats, urging them to hand him a Commons majority and avoid ushering in a Labour government by backing Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

The Tory leader told the Times: "Every single vote for the Brexit Party or the Liberal Democrats means the terrifying prospect of Jeremy Corbyn moving into Downing Street becomes more likely - condemning the country to more gridlock, more division, more uncertainty and our economy taken back to square one."

The Prime Minister, who gave his last speech of the battle at the Olympic Park in Stratford, said: "This election is our chance to end the gridlock but the result is on a knife-edge."

And he added: "Vote today to break the gridlock. Vote to get Brexit done. Vote to unleash Britain’s potential. Enough is enough. Let’s get it done."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile urged voters to side with his party in a "truly historic" election that would upset Britain's "establishment".

"The establishment doesn’t want Labour to win," he told a rally in London's Hoxton.

"They don’t want a Labour government on the side of the people, shaking up how this country is run."

Mr Corbyn added: "Tomorrow you can shock the establishment, by voting for hope.

"Hope for yourself. For your family. For your community. For our NHS. For our country. When Labour wins, the nurse wins, the pensioner wins, the student wins, the office worker wins, the ­engineer wins. We all win."

As the campaign draws to a close, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson issued a last-ditch plea to voters to unseat Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as she urged opponents of Brexit to vote tactically and deny the Tories a majority.

The party is eyeing Mr Raab's Esher and Walton seat in the hope of causing what could be one of the biggest upsets of the night.

Ms Swinson - whose avowedly pro-Remain party has struggled in the polls - insisted it was "absolutely possible" to prevent a Conservative victory.

She told The i newspaper: "That is why so many people will be looking at the specific circumstances in their local area. We know from past elections that very often voters who vote tactically come to that conclusion in the final hours before they cast their vote."

FINAL POLLS

The calls from the party leaders came as pollsters issued their final polls of the campaign - with a study by SavantaComres handing the Tories just a five-point lead, their lowest during the campaign.

The organisation's study puts the Conservatives on 41%, Labour on 36%, the Lib Dems on 12% and the Brexit Party on 3% - a result that would likely lead to another hung Parliament.

Meanwhile, the final ICM study has Mr Johnson's party just six points ahead on 42% to 36% for Labour, 12% for the Lib Dems and 3% for the Brexit Party.

However, other studies gave Mr Johnson a firmer lead, with Kantar's final study placing the Tories 12 points clear of Labour on 44% to 32%, a result that would likely translate to a substantial majority for the party.

Deltapoll's eve-of-election poll similarly puts the Conservatives ahead on 45% to Labour's 35%.

Online pollster Qriously - a member of the British Polling Council - meanwhile gives the Conservatives a thirteen-point lead on 43%, with Labour trailing on just 30%.

The most anticipated poll of election day will be the joint Sky News, ITV and BBC exit poll, which is set to be unveiled at 10pm once all ballots are cast and counting begins across the country.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Blow for Boris Johnson as Michel Barnier says his Brexit trade talks timetable is 'unrealistic'

16 hours 28 minutes ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier warned MEPs the trade talks could not be concluded by December 2020

Boris Johnson's plan to agree a trade deal with Brussels by the end of next year is "unrealistic", according to Michel Barnier.

The EU's top Brexit negotiator was in a private meeting with MEPs when he made the comments, a recording of which was passed to The Independent.

Mr Johnson has insisted that the UK will be able to reach a free trade agreement with the EU in time for the post-Brexit implementation period ending on 31 December next year.

But Mr Barnier said: "With regards to this agreement, we will not get everything done in 11 months. We will do all we can – we won’t do it all.

He continued: “It is unrealistic that a global negotiation can be done in 11 months, so we can't do it all. We will do all we can to get what I call the 'vital minimum' to establish a relationship with the UK if that is the time scale."

The Conservative election manifesto said the Prime Minister will not seek an extension to the implementation period, meaning the UK would leave the EU without a deal at the end of 2020.

Mr Barnier said: "If there is no extension, we will still have a few months to achieve what I would describe as the minimum necessary for the economy and security or to prepare for a cliff-edge.

"Either we have a trade agreement or we will be in the WTO framework. We can’t take contingency measures on trade to give us more time … If there’s no deal, it is a cliff edge for trade."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Barnier also said the Withdrawal Agreement couldn’t be reopened and the backstop would never be removed.

"The Prime Minister secured a new deal that abolished the backstop. Today we are fighting for every vote because only a majority conservative government will get Brexit done."

But Labour’s Andrew Gwynne said Mr Barnier's comments showed the Prime Minister was “playing the British public for fools”.

“He’s hiding in fridges to dodge interviews precisely because  his fake Brexit slogans can’t stand up to scrutiny, just like his empty words on the NHS,” he said.

"Johnson’s sell-out Brexit deal will put us on the fast-track to a cliff-edge no deal Brexit. And that’s exactly what he wants, so he can drive the UK into a toxic trade deal with Trump and put the NHS up for sale to US drug companies.

"The only place Johnson’s sell-out Brexit deal should go is into the deep freeze, just like Johnson when he doesn’t have the guts to face a reporter."

For the Lib Dems, Tom Brake said: "Michel Barnier’s comments are further proof that Boris Johnson’s key campaign slogan is just another Tory fib. Just like his claim that there’ll be no checks on goods to Northern Ireland and his lies to the Queen, Johnson can’t help but mislead the British public.

"His reckless Brexit approach will send the country careering off the no-deal cliff next year."

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Anti-Brexit campaigners blast Labour and Lib Dems for ‘failing Remainers’ and handing Tories a majority

2 days 19 hours ago
Corbyn Swinson
Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson were criticised for their 'very public squabbling' on Brexit

Pro-EU campaign groups have united to condemn Labour and the Liberal Democrats for “failing” Remain voters and handing the Tories a Commons majority.

Best for Britain and the People’s Vote unveiled new seat-by-seat polling showing fewer than 41,000 peopke in 36 constituencies could deprive Boris Johnson of the keys to Number 10 by voting tactically for the party best-placed to beat the Conservatives.

But they said they have been forced into telling those who want a second Brexit referendum which party to back because Labour and the Lib Dems would not stand aside for one another in seats where the Tories are most vulnerable.

Naomi Smith, Best for Britain CEO, said the “very public squabbling between Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson hasn’t been helpful at all” during the election campaign.

She told a press conference the decision by the Brexit Party to stand down in seats the Tories won in 2017 had boosted Mr Johnson’s chances of winning a majority.

“Our side failed to fight fire with fire," she said. "An inability of Corbyn and Swinson to work together means that Remain voters have to do their job for them."

But Ms Smith said that despite the ill-feeling between Labour and the Lib Dems, "If enough Remainers can hold their nose, we are in touching distance of getting a final say referendum”.

She also said it had been a "mistake" for the Lib Dems to pledge to scrap Brexit entirely if they won a Commons majority, rather than backing a second referendum.

The Best for Britain boss said: “I think had they done it when they were at 8% in the polls a couple of years ago that would have helped them out a lot more than doing it this autumn when they were at 20% in the polls.

“I just don’t think that was clever politicking of them at that time.”

And she took aim at Labour and Momentum activists for focusing too much on trying to unseat Mr Johnson in Uxbridge and South Ruislip instead of putting resources into more winnable constituencies.

'FLY TRAP FOR OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS'

Ms Smith said: “What’s slightly frustrating is the number of activists being shipped to that seat to do the decapitation who are taking resources away from seats that are much more marginal.

“Momentum activists and Labour activists could be probably having a more positive impact on denying Boris Johnson a majority elsewhere.”

Polling analyst Lewis Baston said Mr Johnson's seat was “a fly-trap for opposition activists”.

He added: “There’s always this temptation to decapitate the leader of the other side, and it very rarely works.”

Their new seat projection based on a survey of more than 30,000 voters has revised down the size of Mr Johnson’s majority, saying the Tories will win 344 seats at Thursday’s election.

The two groups say tactical voting in just 36 seats could reduce that to 309, leaving them the largest party but short of a majority. By contrast, pro-second referendum parties would have 322 MPs.

The biggest amount of tactical votes needed to change an individual result is 2,454 in Bolton West, and the smallest is just 82 in Dewsbury, both of which would allow Labour to beat the Conservatives.

Alain Tolhurst

Boris Johnson embarks on blitz of Labour-held marginals in final 72 hours of election campaign

3 days 1 hour ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is visiting every region of England and Wales in the nexy three days

Boris Johnson is embarking on a blitz of Labour-held marginal seats in the final 72 hours of the election campaign as he tries to secure a Conservative majority.

The Prime Minister is visiting every region in England and Wales in the last three days before polling to warn voters they face a “great betrayal” on Brexit under Labour.

In constituencies which voted in favour of leaving the EU in 2016, he will say their Labour MPs have “stuck two fingers up to the public” by planning to hold another referendum.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is also making a final push for votes ahead of 12 December with a promise that Labour would put "money in your pocket" if it emerges victorious.

The Labour leader will also focus on the NHS and his party’s key message that only his party will prevent it from being sold off in a US trade deal after Brexit.

Mr Johnson will spend Monday visiting four Brexit-voting Labour seats across Humber and the North East, before ending the day in the South West.

In Brexit-supporting Sunderland, where the first result from the EU referendum in 2016 was announced, he will say: "It’s now been 1,264 days since Sunderland’s roar was heard on the night of 23 June 2016.

"1,264 days in which parliament should have delivered what you voted for, taken us out of the EU, and addressed all the reasons you voted so decisively for change.

"You voted to leave the EU because you wanted to stop sending the EU money we could spend at home, to end uncontrolled and unlimited immigration from the EU, to take back control from an unelected elite in Brussels – and to force politicians in Westminster to listen to you, not just London and the South East.

"Instead we have had 1,264 days of dither and delay, prevarication and procrastination, obfuscation and obstruction."

He will add: “The Labour party has let you down most of all.

“Under Jeremy Corbyn, they promised to honour the result of the referendum – before voting against Brexit every chance they had.

“They won their seats on a false prospectus and then stuck two fingers up to the public.

“Now they are proposing another referendum – this time rigging the result by extending the franchise to 2 million EU citizens.

“It’s been the ‘great betrayal’, orchestrated from Islington by politicians who sneer at your values and ignore your votes.”

The PM will visit north Wales, the Midlands and the North West on Tuesday, before finishing his three-day tour with trips to Yorkshire, Lancashire and the East Midlands on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn will speak at a rally in Bristol and campaign in Gloucestershire and the West Midlands on Monday and focus on their policies to boost voters’ finances.

At events in Wales on Sunday the Labour leader highlighted their promises to increase the national living wage to £10 an hour, expanding free childcare, cutting household bills and providing free personal care for the over-65s.

Alain Tolhurst

Boris Johnson insists leaked government document predicting Irish Sea customs checks is 'wrong'

3 days 22 hours ago
Boris Johnson BBC
Boris Johnson has insisted his Brexit deal will not produce further custom checks in Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson has insisted a leaked government analysis suggesting there would need to be customs checks in the Irish Sea after Brexit is "wrong".

The Prime Minister rubbished claims his Brexit deal would lead to new customs checks for goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after a leaked Treasury document said there were "potential fetters" in the proposals.

On Friday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled the report, prepared by civil servants, which concluded that "customs declarations and documentary and physical checks [West/East] and [East/West] will be highly disruptive to the NI economy".

Mr Corbyn said the document drove a "coach and horses" through the Prime Minister's claims his deal would not create a border in the Irish sea.

But speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge, Mr Johnson said there would "absolutely not" be new checks, adding: "The deal we've done with the EU is a brilliant deal... unlike the previous arrangements it allows the whole of the UK to come out of the EU including Northern Ireland and the only checks that there would be, would if something was coming from GB via Northern Ireland and was going on to the Republic..."

And asked if he believed Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was wrong to suggest there would be new checks, he added: "Yes”.

“Because there's no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI because they are part of - if you look at what the deal is, we're part of the same customs territory and it's very clear that there should be unfettered access between Northern Ireland and the rest of GB... the whole of the UK comes out of the EU.

"We're a UK government, why would we put checks on goods going from NI to GB or GB to NI? It doesn't make sense."

Speaking on Friday, Mr Corbyn said the documents provided "cold, hard evidence" Mr Johnson's plans would create further red tape for goods passing between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"What we have here is a confidential report by Johnson's new government, marked 'official, sensitive', that exposes the falsehoods that Boris Johnson has been putting forward," he said.

"This is cold, hard evidence that categorically shows the impact a damaging Brexit deal would have on large parts of our country."

The Conservatives insisted the plans were an "initial assessment" drawn up by junior civil servants and which had never been seen by Mr Johnson or other senior ministers.

But the leak provoked a backlash from DUP candidate Jeffrey Donaldson who said it proved his party was right to vote against Mr Johnson's plans when they were put before the Commons in October.

He said: "Despite his protestations, the facts are in black and white. That is why we opposed the deal in the House of Commons and why Northern Ireland needs the deal changed.

John Johnston

Top UK diplomat quits with attack on government 'peddling half-truths’ on Brexit

5 days 15 hours ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson's top Brexit envoy in the US has quit

A top UK diplomat has quit after delivering a damning attack on the Government for “peddling half-truths” on Brexit.

 

Alexandra Hall Hall has reportedly stepped down from her role in America saying accusing political leaders' of a “reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs” of leaving the EU, according to CNN.

She was serving as the lead envoy for Brexit at the British Embassy in Washington, but sent a letter earlier this week saying she could no longer reconcile her commitment to the job with the demands made of her.

Ms Hall Hall, who has had a three-decade-long career as a diplomat and is a and a former ambassador, wrote: “I am also at a stage in life where I would prefer to do something more rewarding with my time, than peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust.”

She does not mention Boris Johnson by name, but her missive will make uncomfortable reading for the Prime Minister less than a week from an election in which his central message has been that a vote for him is a vote to “get Brexit done”.

And it comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn produced leaked internal documents which he said show there will be customs checks on the Irish border post-Brexit, despite Mr Johnson’s public pledges there would not be. 

Ms Hall Hall’s letter said: "I have been increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves.

“The use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options before us; and some behaviour towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern.

"It makes our job to promote democracy and the rule of law that much harder, if we are not seen to be upholding these core values at home."

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office confirmed she was standing down, said CNN, but added: “We won’t comment on the detail of an individual’s resignation.”

Alain Tolhurst

Jeremy Corbyn: Leaked government documents show PM 'misleading public' over Brexit

5 days 20 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn with leaked documents on Northern Ireland
Jeremy Corbyn said the document "exposes the falsehoods" of Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

Checks will need to take place on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK under Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, leaked government documents have confirmed.

Jeremy Corbyn said the Treasury dossier was “cold hard evidence” that the Prime Minister has been “deliberately misleading” the public about his Brexit deal.

It appeared to show that the Government is preparing for customs checks to be carried out on goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and back again.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted that such checks will not be required after the UK leaves the EU.

Revealing the 15-page document at a press conference, Mr Corbyn said: “What we have here is a confidential report by Johnson’s own government, marked 'official sensitive', that exposes the falsehoods that Boris Johnson has been putting forward.”

The papers are marked with the Treasury seal, and present an analysis of the Northern Ireland protocol negotiated by Boris Johnson with the EU.

It suggests that customs declarations and security checks will be required on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

The document calls into question past comments made by Mr Johnson on custom checks.

Speaking to Northern Irish business leaders in November, he said: "There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind. You will have unfettered access.

“If somebody asks you to do that, tell them to ring up the Prime Minister and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The Prime Minister stuck by his past comments when quizzed about the leaked documents.

Speaking at a campaign event, he said voters “should believe what I say” and that there will be “no checks on goods” crossing the Irish Sea. 

In contrast, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has previously admitted that Northern Irish companies would have to fill in forms to send goods to Britain.

‘SYMBOLICALLY SEPARATED’

As well as custom checks, the document also claims that Mr Johnson’s deal would mean Northern Ireland was “symbolically separated” from Great Britain.

It also warned that custom checks would be “highly disruptive to the Northern Irish economy” and would hit small businesses the hardest.

Last week, the Labour party also released confidential documents which purportedly showed that the NHS was “on the table” in US trade talks, contrary to Government claims.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Former Tory PM John Major to join election rally aimed at blocking Boris Johnson majority

6 days 2 hours ago
John Major
Sir John Major is a long-standing critic of Boris Johnson.

A former Tory Prime Minister is set to join an election rally aimed at preventing Boris Johnson from winning a Commons majority.

Sir John Major is expected to be joined by Tony Blair, his Labour successor in Number 10, at the event in London on Friday.

The high-profile pair, who both support a second EU referendum, will urge people to vote tactically for the pro-Remain candidate most likely to defeat Conservatives in their seat.

Michael Heseltine, who was Sir John's deputy when he was Prime Minister, will also speak at the event, which has been organised by the 'Vote for a Final Say' and 'For our Future’s Sake' campaign groups.

Others expected to speak at the rally include former Tory Cabinet minister David Gauke - who was kicked out of the party for opposing Mr Johnson's Brexit plans - and Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's top spin doctor when he was Prime Minister.

Sir John has been a long-standing critic of Mr Johnson's Brexit plans, and earlier this year joined the legal attempt to prevent the PM shutting down Parliament for five weeks as MPs fought to stop a no-deal departure.

Speaking in September, he said: "Most Conservatives are not a Brexit Party tribute band, nor have we abandoned our core values to find compromise, seek allies, and strive for unity, rather than division and disarray.

"We do not believe we have the right to ignore the voices of millions of others, whose opinions differ from our own. 

"And we abhor the language of division and hate – and words such as 'saboteur', 'traitor', 'enemy', 'surrender', 'betrayal' have no place in our party, our politics, nor in our society.  It is emphatically not who we are as a people.  And must never be seen as so.

"I hope that the Conservative Parliamentary Party will regain its sense of balance, and rein in the faction of a faction that now prevails in Cabinet."

Speaking ahead of the rally, David Gauke - who is standing as an independent in the South West Hertfordshire seat he has held since 2005 - said: "I worked to find a compromise that sought to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit but the hardliners in my former party wouldn’t accept anything other than the hardest of hard Brexit.

"Now the choices are very stark. The country is polarised. It is either a hard Brexit or Remain. Neither option has a mandate from the 2016 referendum. I believe we need to put those options back to the British people in a confirmatory referendum. And in those circumstances, it is overwhelmingly in the national interest to remain."

Alastair Campbell, who was kicked out of the Labour Party for voting Lib Dem at the European elections, said: "This election is not about Jeremy Corbyn or Jo Swinson – neither can win a majority. It has come down to one simple question: Do you want to give Boris Johnson and the reckless right-wing gang that surrounds him, total power to do whatever they want?

"It is not too late to stop him and secure a democratic final say on Brexit. But a lot more people are going to have to focus on who can win their seat, hold their noses, and put aside party loyalty or even views about the respective leaders if we are to have a real chance." 

Kevin Schofield

Humiliation for Nigel Farage as four Brexit Party MEPs quit to back Conservatives

6 days 21 hours ago
Nigel Farage
The group of four delivered a letter to the former Ukip leader on Thursday morning

Four Brexit Party MEPs have handed in their resignations in order to back the Conservatives at the general election.

 Annunziata Rees-Mogg, Lance Forman, John Longworth and Lucy Harris said only the Tories could be trusted to deliver Brexit.

The move is a shattering blow for Nigel Farage, who has seen his party's poll rating plummet throughout the election campaign.

The four rebels delivered a resignation letter to Mr Farage on Thursday morning.

It comes as Mr Longworth was stripped of the party whip on Wednesday for “undermining” the leader’s strategy. 

Mr Longworth, who has previously called on Mr Farage to only stand candidates in a small number of seats, said: “For those who want Brexit,  Boris Johnson’s deal  is the only option available, Labour does not have a plan.”

And Ms Harris added: “The Brexit Party has played an essential role in getting us to a point where Brexit can actually happen, now it’s time to get Brexit done.”

Following the Brexit Party’s success in winning May's European elections, Mr Farage declared he would stand candidates in every Westminster seat.

But last month, he announced the party would stand aside in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017 in order to boost the chances of a pro-Brexit majority in the Commons.

Responding to the MEPs' resignations, Mr Farage said: "Whilst we are disappointed that four of our MEPs don’t seem to understand that we both saved the Conservative Party from large-scale losses to the Liberal Democrats in the south and south-west of England but we are also hammering the Labour Leave vote in its traditional heartlands, making it much easier for the Conservatives to win many of those seats.

"The only vote on the Leave side that is currently being split is in areas such as Barnsley, the South Wales Valleys, Doncaster and Hartlepool, where there is a risk that the Tories will split our vote."

A Brexit Party spokesman said: "We also note that one of the MEPs is the sister of a Cabinet minister, another has a partner who works in the office of the same Cabinet minister and yet another is a personal friend of both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

"In the case of John Longworth, who was for years the firmest advocate of World Trade Organisation withdrawal that we have ever met, he underwent a metamorphosis into being a supporter of the new EU treaty following two days of meetings in London. We hope that Mr Longworth is well rewarded for his actions."

Naomi Smith, chief executive of pro-EU campaign group Best For Britain, said: "As if it wasn't obvious before, the Tory party have completely morphed into the Brexit Party.

"They are now not just stealing policies, they're also taking people.

"It's clear that a vote for the Conservatives or the Brexit Party means the hardest form of Brexit possible, leading to economic chaos.

"The only way to stop that outcome is to vote tactically, supporting the candidate with the best chance of beating the Tories or the Brexit Party."

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Tory lead over Labour narrowing as Lib Dem vote squeeze continues, new poll suggests

1 week 3 days ago
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
The poll suggests Labour's support has risen among Remain voters.

The Conservative poll lead over Labour is narrowing while the Liberal Democrats are continuing to shed support, a new poll has found.

The Survation study for Good Morning Britain shows that the Tories are now just nine points ahead of their main rivals, down from 14 points two weeks ago.

It puts support for the Conservatives on 42% - unchanged in the past fortnight - with Labour up five points on 33%.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have shed two points over the past fortnight, taking them to 11% of the vote.

The Brexit Party, which topped the European elections, remain on just 3%, while the Greens are up one point on 4%.

The pollster suggests Labour's bounce could be down to a growth in support among Remain voters, with 49% of those who backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum now saying they will vote for the party - a ten-point rise on two weeks ago.

By contrast, just 21% of Remain backers say they will vote for the avowedly anti-Brexit Lib Dems, down from 24% in a fortnight.

There has also been a solidifying of Labour's support among those who backed the party at the 2017 election, according to Survation, with 77% of those who previously voted for Jeremy Corbyn now saying they will do so again, up from 69% in the first Survation/GMB poll.

Thirteen percent of Labour's 2017 voters remain undecided, the pollster found, compared to 8% for 2017 Tory voters.

The study also shows that Boris Johnson remains comfortably in the lead when voters are asked who would make the best Prime Minister.

The Conservative leader bags 43% support on that question, compared to just 25% for Jeremy Corbyn, who has risen three points since the last study.

Jo Swinson has seen a five-point loss, with 11% now saying she would make the best PM.

GMB/Survation sampled 1,065 members of the public between 26-30 November.

The study comes after a mixed weekend of polling for the Tories, with figures ranging from the party being just six points ahead to a much larger 15.

A BMG survey saw Labour up 5% to 33%, while the Tories slipped 2% to 39%, increasing the chances of a hung parliament.

But Opinium put Mr Johnson’s party on 46%, while Labour languish on 31%, despite being up three points since the firm’s last poll.

If that scenario was replicated on election night it would see the Prime Minister returned to Number 10 with a sizeable majority in the House of Commons.

Image

 

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EU citizens will need US-style visa clearance after Brexit as Tories unveil 'take back control' border pledges

1 week 3 days ago
Border Force
EU citizens will need to produce a passport and fill in a form to enter the UK.

European visitors to the UK will need to obtain US-style electronic clearance before coming to the UK after Brexit, the Conservatives have pledged.

Under a raft of promises the party claims will improve border security if it wins the election, the Tories said a new visa waiver scheme called Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) would be brought in for EU citizens wanting to travel to the UK.

Under current EU free movement rules, travellers from the bloc only need an ID card to gain entry.

But the new regime will see them asked to bring passports and fill in an online form before travelling, a move the Conservatives said would allow officials to "to screen arrivals and block threats from entering the UK".

The Tories are also pledging to gather more data on goods being brought into the UK in a bid to clamp down on smuggling - a move the party claims could save £5bn a year in lost taxes.

They are also promising to bring in new immigration regulations with "far broader powers" for the Home Secretary to stop EU foreign nationals with serious convictions from entering the UK.

Unveiling the plans, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “When people voted to leave in 2016 they were voting to take back control of our borders.

"After Brexit we will introduce an Australian-style points based immigration system and take steps to strengthen our border and improve the security of the UK.

And she added: "The consequence of EU law limiting our border capability is brought home to me every day. It is a sad fact that drugs and guns reach our streets from Europe, fuelling violence and addiction. People traffickers don’t think twice about risking people’s lives for profit. And most shockingly of all we know that terrorists have been able to enter the country by exploiting free movement.

"I am committed to doing everything we can to secure the border and protect the UK."

But Labour warned that the Conservatives' Brexit would hamper border security by pulling the UK out of key information-sharing systems with the EU.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "Tory claims to be strengthening the border through their sell out Brexit deal are groundless.

"By quitting the entire system of EU security and justice, we will no longer have real-time access to a host of critical databases or access to the European Arrest Warrant.

"This will undermine the ability of our police and border agencies to apprehend terrorists and organised criminals, and could even make us a safe haven for fugitives fleeing the justice systems in the EU."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Ex-Labour MP Gisela Stuart urges traditional party voters to back Boris Johnson and 'get Brexit done'

1 week 5 days ago
Gisela Stuart and Boris Johnson
Gisela Stuart with Boris Johnson.

A former Labour MP has called on the party's traditional supporters to back Boris Johnson at the general election.

Gisela Stuart urged voters to "set party allegiance aside" as she launched a bitter attack on Jeremy Corbyn's leader of the Labour party.

Ms Stuart, who served as MP for Birmingham Edgbaston from 1997 until 2017, said she continued to hold Labour values, but claimed the party she believed in had "gone" under Mr Corbyn.

She spoke out as she appeared at a Conservative press conference alongside former Vote Leave colleagues Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

On the dilemma facing Leave-backing Labour supporters, she said: "They will feel as I do that they face a difficult choice, torn between loyalty to the party and the best interests of the country as a whole.

“I say to these traditional Labour voters who three and a half years ago voted to leave, that we can bring the country back together again, and we can unite, but that is not by voting for Jeremy Corbyn."

She added: "Vote Leave was a cross-party endeavour and I believe that this election, we need to come together again once more.

"Set aside party allegiance to get Brexit done and heal the country. In this election I will not vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but I can vote for Brexit.

"Labour has voted twice to delay Brexit. The Labour leadership, the Shadow Cabinet and most Labour MPs do not believe in Brexit.

"And Labour’s proposed Brexit deal is so bad that not even Jeremy Corbyn can bring himself to support it."

Her comments will come as a further blow to the Labour leader, who is facing growing criticsm over his plans to hold a second referendum on Brexit in which he has pledged to remain "neutral".

Speaking at the same event, Mr Johnson said Labour's plans would mean further "dither and delay" as he pledged to deliver a series of post-Brexit reforms if he is handed a majority on 12 December.

The Prime Minister said his 'Brexit roadmap' would see a new state aid system created to help protect British firms as well as the implementation of a new points-based immigration system at the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021.

John Johnston

Nicola Sturgeon says SNP will demand further NHS cash boost in hung Parliament

2 weeks 1 day ago
Nicola Sturgeon
The SNP leader will launch her party's manfiesto in Scotland on Wednesday.

Nicola Sturgeon will demand a further cash boost for the NHS if her party holds the balance of power after the election.

Speaking at the launch of the SNP's manifesto in Glasgow, the Scottish First Minister will call for a future UK government to match Scotland's per-head levels of health service spending south of the border in the event of a hung parliament.

The SNP leader will say this election will see the future of Scotland "on the line" - and warn voters that "there is worse to come" if the Boris Johnson's Brexit plans are not thwarted.

Ms Sturgeon will tell supporters: “The reality of Westminster control over Scotland is this: a right-wing Tory government Scotland didn’t vote for and a Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who is dangerous and unfit for office.

“It means Tory cuts to the Scottish budget, the NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal, a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, children being forced into poverty and a disastrous Brexit deal that will hit jobs, living standards and workers’ rights.​

“But there is worse to come - unless Boris Johnson is stopped this will just be the start.​

“Brexit is nowhere near being done. The Tories have barely got going - they haven’t even started trade talks.​"

Mr Johnson on Tuesday redoubled his opposition to granting the SNP a second referendum on Scottish independence, pointing to Ms Sturgeon's previous claim that the 2014 vote would be a "once in a generation event".

"I think she should stick to that line," he quipped at the Scottish Conservatives' own manifesto launch. "It was a good one."

Ms Sturgeon has ruled out supporting a minority Conservative government in a hung parliament, but has made clear that the SNP would be willing to back Labour in exchange for it granting a second vote on independence.

Fleshing out her negotiating plan in Glasgow on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon will demand a significant increase in NHS spending across the UK.

The SNP will call for the next UK Government to lift per-head health spending outside Scotland to levels seen north of the Border, where the SNP claims spending on the NHS is £136 per-head higher.

That would mean a £35bn increase in NHS spending in England by 2023/24 compared to current levels - more than either Labour or the Conservatives are currently promising.

The Scottish Government would then pump a further £4bn in to the NHS in Scotland by the end of the next Parliament, the SNP said.

Ms Sturgeon will say: "The SNP is spending in Scotland £136, per head, more on frontline health services than in England. ​

"This amounts to over £740 million more spending per year on frontline health services in Scotland, compared to the UK. ​

“Now, given our rural population, there should always be higher per capita spend in Scotland. ​

“However, if the next UK government raised health spending per head to the current Scottish level, closing that gap, it would not only substantially increase health investment in England, but would mean that by 2024-25, frontline investment to NHS Scotland would be more than £4 billion higher than today.​"

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EXCL Government spent £200k putting cones on the M20 for Brexit day - and removed them a day later

2 weeks 1 day ago
Operation Brock
The Government spent £200,000 activating and then de-activating Operation Brock a day later.

The Government spent £200,000 putting out cones to turn the M20 into a lorry park in preparation for a no-deal Brexit - then took them away again a day later.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed the cost of activating Operation Brock on 28 October - three days before the UK was due to leave the EU - was £107,000.

But a further £88,000 was spent deactivating it on 29 October.

Highways England planned to put a contraflow system in place on the motorway leading down to the Kent coast so that one side of the M20 was only used by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)

This was due to fears there would be delays with customs checks at cross-Channel ports if the UK left the EU without a deal, creating a back-log of vehicles leading from Dover.

The plan swung into action despite the fact that MPs had passed the Benn Act delaying a no-deal Brexit.

Just hours after highways officials began the process of putting out the 7,500 cones, Boris Johnson sent a letter to Brussels requesting the Article 50 deadline be extended to 31 January.

After it was accepted by the European Council, Highways England confirmed Operation Brock was being stood down.

In response to the FOI asking how much this cost they told PoliticsHome: “The costs associated with the activation of the contraflow was £107,847.22.

“Installing and removing traffic management is a significant operation and is a main consideration in any road scheme.

“In the case of Operation Brock it involved installing crossover points in the central reservation, altering the road layout and putting out 7,500 traffic cones and 350 signs.”

The further costs “associated with the deactivation of the contraflow were £88,547.12," it confirmed.

In total Highways England has been allocated £35million for the operation, £30million for the M20, and £5million assigned to adapting the nearby M26 “as an additional contingency measure”.

It was also put in place back in March ahead of the first Article 50 deadline, but was deactivated three weeks later once the extension to October 31 was agreed.

Alain Tolhurst

Ex-People's Vote staff launch second referendum push with bid to stop Boris Johnson majority

2 weeks 1 day ago
Campaigners for a second Brexit referendum
Campaigners for a second Brexit referendum in London last month.

Former staff from the People's Vote campaign have launched a fresh push to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority and trigger a second Brexit referendum.

The newly-formed 'Vote for a Final Say' group, which includes ex-advisers to the People's Vote campaign, has promised to "start fighting back" and scupper the Prime Minister's chances of winning the election by making it easier for voters to know which anti-Brexit candidates to support in their areas.

The People's Vote campaign descended into acrimony last month as staff staged a walkout following the sacking of director James McGrory and head of communications Tom Baldwin by chairman Roland Rudd.

Mr McGrory is now acting as a senior adviser to the 'Vote for Final Say' drive, with Mr Baldwin also on board as a communications adviser.

The new group has vowed a "laser-focused mission" looking at 25 key marginal constituencies that it says could stop the Conservatives from securing a landslide majority.

Pledging to spend "thousands of pounds" in each seat, the new group has said it will aim to offer tactical voting advice and advise anti-Brexit voters who "are still confused or are being misled about which candidate is best-placed to beat the Conservatives".

Mr McGrory said: "Time is running out to stop Boris Johnson getting a landslide.

"There have been too many arguments about who has the best tactical voting website or polling data and not enough action.

"We can all agree that these 25 seats are critical if we’re to prevent Brextremist Tories securing total power.

"Now is the time for everyone to roll their sleeves up and start fighting back."

The group is also teaming up with former activists from the 'For Our Future's Sake' group of anti-Brexit students in a bid to drive up the youth vote.

For our Future’s Sake co-founder Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson said the new campaign would try to make sure young people use their votes "wisely" to block Brexit-backing candidates.

"These 25 seats could decide whether Boris Johnson gets the majority he needs to do whatever he wants of us having the chance to stop him through a Final Say referendum," she said.

"Young people are traditionally the group of voters least likely take part in elections but we also have the most to lose.

"In constituencies where just a few hundred people could make all the difference, it is vital we make our voices heard.”

Candidates the party is hoping to shore up include Labour's Richard Burden, Darren Jones, James Frith and Anna McMorrin, as well as Lib Dem hopefuls Luciana Berger, Daisy Cooper and Paul Kohler.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson heading for ‘biggest crisis of Brexit to date’ in 2020, former ambassador Ivan Rogers warns

2 weeks 1 day ago
Sir Ivan Rogers
Sir Ivan Rogers blasted Boris Johnson's Brexit police as 'diplomatic amateurism'

Boris Johnson is heading for the “biggest crisis of Brexit to date” in 2020, according to the UK’s former ambassador to the EU.

Sir Ivan Rogers accused the Prime Minister of engaging in “diplomatic amateurism” and repeating the mistakes of Theresa May by claiming a long-term trade deal can be agreed with Brussels in less than 12 months.

The ex-senior diplomat said the prospect of talks breaking down before the end of 2020 "is much likelier than people realise" and would result in the UK leaving with no agreement in place.

In a speech at the University of Glasgow he said: “In practice, this Prime Minister is, for all his talk of getting Brexit done, now basically replicating the strategy errors of 2016 and 2017, which brought his predecessor down.

“This is diplomatic amateurism dressed up domestically as boldness and decisiveness.”

Sir Ivan, who resigned as the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU in January 2017, said the crisis was “virtually inevitable” as there was “no escape from ball-achingly technical and lengthy negotiations” on the small print of free-trade deals.

But Chancellor Sajid Javid has insisted he has “no doubt” such an agreement can be negotiated before December 31, 2020, when the Brexit transition period is due to end.

Mr Rogers said although he was aware this “makes me the rather forbidding Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”, the UK should be braced for “a repetition of exactly the syndrome we have suffered” for the last three years.

And he said the pressure to “get Brexit done” - a key campaign pledge of the Prime Minister - will mean Mr Johnson will have to make “a lot of concessions” to the EU secure any deal by the end of the year.

The ex-ambassador was also critical of Jeremy Corbyn, saying his plan to stay neutral in a second referendum “frankly deserves the Brussels eye-rolling it duly gets”.

And he attacked Remainers "who think the clock can be put back" saying they were "in denial about where mainstream continental elite opinion is".

In response, the Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Boris Johnson’s promise to get Brexit done has been exposed as the sham it is.

“His plan would either lead to a catastrophic no deal in 2020 or years more chaos and damaging uncertainty."

Alain Tolhurst

Tony Blair says Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are 'peddling fantasies' as election looms

2 weeks 3 days ago
Tony Blair
Mr Blair will say the election is being defined by "unprecedented volatility and indecision".

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are "peddling two sets of fantasies" ahead of the 12 December election, according to Tony Blair.

In his first major intervention of the election campaign, the former Prime Minister will hit out at the Conservatives for claiming Brexit "will be over" if they are handed a majority.

And the ex-Labour leader will take aim at Mr Corbyn for promising "revolution" - and warn that the chances of a Labour victory are now "negligible".

Speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event on Monday, Mr Blair will tear into both the Conservatives and Labour for their election pitch to the country.

"The Conservatives calculate that they can force people to elect them, despite worry over Brexit, because Jeremy Corbyn is the alternative," he will say.

"The Labour Party leadership calculate they can combine traditional Labour support around issues like the NHS, with Remain voters who hate Brexit, despite fear about the Labour Leader.

"In other words, both parties want to win on the basis that whatever your dislike of what they're offering, the alternative is worse."

The ex-PM will argue that this leaves voters facing "unprecedented volatility and indecision" - with many now "scratching their heads, changing their minds, floating and unsure".

Criticising the Conservative campaign pledge to 'Get Brexit Done', Mr Blair will say: "The cheek is quite breath-taking.

"So, having visited this debacle upon us, which has distracted us from those big issues for over three years, they now use the distraction as a reason for doing Brexit, not abandoning it."

He will warn: "Brexit isn't over on 12 December, nor even on 31 January next year. We immediately begin the new phase of Brexit negotiation.

"Only this time, we are negotiating the future relationship of Britain with Europe, not simply the Irish border question, and without the leverage which comes from still being a member of the EU, since, legally, we will have left the Union and are in the transition period supposed to last up to the end of 2020."

'NEGLIGIBLE'

Mr Blair will meanwhile renew his warnings about a no-deal Brexit, likening such an outcome after the EU transition period expires to throwing the UK economy "off a cliff" while "hoping it finds a parachute on the way down".

"It is a risk no responsible leader would take. Yet we may be about to empower a Leader – Boris Johnson – to take such a risk," Mr Blair will say.

Turning to Labour, the ex-PM is expected to say: "The Labour Party manifesto is heralded by its leadership as the most radical ever.

"This is true. It promises a revolution; and if implemented it would indeed amount to one.

"The problem with revolutions is never how they begin but how they end."

The former Prime Minister has been a frequent critic of Labour's direction since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015.

But Mr Blair will make clear he is continuing to campaign for the party in a bid to shore up "independent minded MPs".

He will say: "We should look at this election seat by seat. There is one general election but 650 mini elections and each one matters.

"There are good, solid mainstream, independent minded MPs and candidates in both parties.

"I have been campaigning for those in the Labour Party because I know Parliament will be poorer without them."

And he will warn voters against backing the Tories even as Labour struggles in the polls.

"The polls predict a Conservative victory and put the chances of an outright Labour victory as negligible," Mr Blair will say.

"But I wouldn't trust Boris Johnson with a blank cheque."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Angela Rayner suggests Labour may not take a position in second EU referendum

2 weeks 3 days ago
angela Rayner
The Shadow Education Secretary said it was a "hypothetical question" when asked whether the party would campaign for its own Brexit deal.

Angela Rayner has suggested that Labour will not take an official position if there is a second EU referendum.

The Shadow Education Secretary said it was a "hypothetical" question when asked whether the party would campaign for its own Brexit deal.

Her comments came less than 48 hours after Jeremy Corbyn revealed he will remain neutral in any new referendum campaign.

Labour has pledged to negotiate a new Brexit deal within three months of winning the election, then hold a referendum on it three months later.

At the party's annual conference in September, delegates agreed to hold a special one-day gathering next year to decide how it would campaign in a second referendum.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether a Labour government would take a position on its own deal, Ms Rayner said: “Well that’s a hypothetical. What Jeremy’s said and he’s been very clear...only the Labour party is going to give people the choice.

“We’re going to negotiate a deal that will puts jobs, consumer and environment protections first, it will deal with the Northern Ireland border issue. 

“Within six months we’ll put that back to the people and the people will decide and then we’ll move on. But [with] the Conservatives we’re going to be constantly in this Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.”

The Labour frontbencher also dismissed claims that most of the party’s senior team and members back Remain when she was pressed on who would campaign for a Labour negotiated deal in a second vote.

“Some of the problems we have at the moment the framing of this is everyone’s Remain and that’s just not true,” she said.

“And actually the country did vote to leave the European Union and we said we respected that. We’re not going to be like the Lib Dems and just ignore that, we will negotiate a deal and we’ll put that back to the people and they will have the ultimate say and then we’ll move on.”

Meanwhile, John McDonnell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that Shadow Cabinet members would be expected to campaign in the referendum using their own judgement but he did not reveal which side he would choose.

Asked whether he will stay neutral in the debate, he said: “No I won’t, and I don’t think Jeremy’s asking people to do that. 

“I’ll wait until I see the terms of the deal that we negotiate."

Anahita Hossein-Pour

Jeremy Corbyn says he will remain neutral in any second Brexit referendum

2 weeks 5 days ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn would remain neutral in a second EU referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will remain "neutral" during any second referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union.

The Labour leader said that would allow him to bring the country back together again once it was over.

His comments, in a Question Time leader's debate, are at odds with his party's official position, which is to hold a special conference to decide whether to back Leave or Remain.

Under Mr Corbyn's plan, he would attempt to rise above the fray and then implement whatever the country decides.

He said: "I will adopt, if I am Prime Minister at the time, a neutral stance so I can credibly carry out the result of that to bring our communities and country together rather continuing endless debate about the EU and Brexit.

"This will be a trade deal with Europe or remaining in the EU - that will be the choice that will be put before the British people within 6 months. Any other option will require years of negotiations either with the EU or the USA."

In response, a Conservative Party source said: "Jeremy Corbyn has just confirmed that he has no plan for Brexit - he will not even say if he thinks we should leave or remain.

"All he offers is months and months of dither and delay followed by the chaos of another two referendums."

SCOTTISH REFERENDUM

Elsewhere during his half hour grilling, Mr Corbyn also said that he would not allow a second Scottish rerferendum to take place for "for the first two years at least" of a Labour government.

But SNP leader Nicpla Sturgeon, who has said she wants it to take place in 2020, said she believed he would drop that position if he needed her party's support in order to form a minority administration.

She said: "Jeremy Corbyn supports the right of self-determination of almost every other country in the world. I’m not sure he’s going to compromise the chance to have a Labour government for that issue.

"If Jeremy Corbyn wants the support of the SNP ... I would ask him to respect the right of the Scottish people to choose their own future and I don't think he'll turn his back on ending austerity to block that right."

Kevin Schofield
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47