Brexit Brief: PM hopefuls make fresh funding pledges as voting approaches
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are ramping up their spending promises days before Conservative party members receive their postal ballots to decide who will become their next leader — and U.K. prime minister.
Johnson has moved to secure support by vowing to hire 20,000 extra police to “keep the streets safe and cut crime” — adding another £1bn to his spending pledges, the Financial Times reports.
However, the front-runner in the leadership race failed to rule out quitting as prime minister if he cannot deliver Brexit by October 31. Johnson has repeatedly said Britain will exit the European Union on that date, whether or not it can get a deal agreed.
But there could be trouble for Johnson, according to the BBC. Marcus Ball, who took the MP to court over claims he lied during the Brexit campaign, wants to continue with efforts to prosecute Johnson, despite his case being thrown by a High Court judge. Ball’s complaint centres around a claim that the NHS would receive £350m a week in extra funding following Brexit. The figure became a key part of the Vote Leave campaign.
Meanwhile, Hunt has made a pledge to revisit the fox hunting ban, which was introduced in 2004, only to backtrack hours later saying “this isn’t something I will seek to change as prime minister”. The promise to give MPs a vote on lifting the ban had been seen as an attempt to woo Tory members, but was met with criticism.
Foreign Secretary Hunt has warned China it could face “serious consequences” over its treatment of activists in Hong Kong, following protests earlier this week over a controversial extradition bill. The move has raised questions over whether this will have a long-term affect on relations between the countries, at a time when the U.K. is trying to forge new trading partnerships.
Elsewhere, support for the U.K.’s Labour Party has hit a historic low, with only 18% of the electorate planning to vote for them, according to The Times. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire over his Brexit strategy and his response to an anti-Semitism row within the party.