The Prime Minister’s policy pledges during the leadership campaign give the indication that he will be supportive of business, and keen to cut regulation and the tax burden. This is set in a broader context of his Brexit policy – for Britain to be a global, outward-looking nation – and his wish to “energise” the country.
However, it is difficult to predict the feasibility of implementing pledges made during the campaign, particularly given the scale of the spending required to fulfil these.
We have outlined some of the key commitments below.
As the leading light in the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum the Prime Minister is committed to Brexit and sees it as an opportunity rather than a risk to be managed.
In an interview with Talkradio’s Ross Kempsell, Johnson also said that the UK must come out of the EU by 31st October “do or die”.
If the UK was to leave without a deal, Johnson has claimed that under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Britain could use World Trade Organisation rules to avoid tariffs under a no-deal Brexit.
No Deal preparation will be increased
The appointment of political heavyweight Michael Gove to lead the government’s no-deal preparations is significant.
With Parliament on its summer break until 3rd September there is very little time to negotiate an alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, ahead of the 31st October deadline.
It has been rumoured that the PM will also launch a no-deal ‘public information campaign’, to help minimise any possible no-deal disruption. These measures send a clear message to Brussels that Johnson is serious about leaving the EU without a deal, if necessary.
- The UK will leave the EU “do or die” by the 31st
- Increase no-deal preparation
- Launch of no-deal ‘public information campaign’ to minimise disruption
Johnson takes a progressive view on immigration despite the central focus of it during the 2016 referendum campaign. In the past, he has advocated a points-based system, and has made clear that EU citizens in the UK ahead of Exit Day should have their rights protected.
Journalists have been briefed a big announcement will be made about EU citizens as one of his first acts as Prime Minister.
- Securing the rights of EU citizens who have been living in the UK up to the Brexit withdrawal date
- Introduction of an ‘Australian-style’ points system
During the Conservative leadership election campaign, Johnson made a number of ambitious spending commitments. In particular, his intention to raise the higher rate of income tax was criticised for benefitting higher earners, with Johnson subsequently stating that he will prioritise low earners.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that Boris Johnson’s tax pledges will potentially cost the Treasury billions of pounds. In response to these criticisms, he claimed that there is “headroom available” for increased spending and that tax cuts will stimulate economic growth.
- Increasing the threshold for the higher rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000 at a cost of £9.6 billion
- Lifting the threshold for National Insurance
- Reviewing ‘sin taxes’ on sugary drinks
- Preferential tax treatment for companies who help staff with mental health issues
These tax cuts are separate to the taxes which he indicated he would make in the event of a no-deal Brexit emergency budget, in which he would plan to overhaul stamp duty and cut regulation.
During the campaign, he spoke passionately on the issue of schools funding – an issue of great concern to Conservative MPs who have suffered pressure from schools in their areas, and which may enhance support for Johnson amongst his critics.
- Increasing per pupil spending in primary schools to £4000 and secondary schools to £5,000
- Introducing a £100 million ‘retraining fund’ for those already in the labour market to learn new skills
Crime and policing is an issue of particular concern to Conservative members, coinciding with a rise in knife crime across London.
- Recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers by 2022 – at a cost of £1.1 billion – to address the rise in crime with the ‘fiscal headroom available’
The PM has attempted to show his green credentials, tweeting that he would legislate for net zero emissions by 2050, and that he would embrace the opportunity of green growth, positioning the UK as a global decarbonisation leader.
The PM will have seen polling which shows green policies are popular with younger voters in particular. However, this contrasts with his track record on the subject: previously, he has described climate change as a “primitive fear” that is “without foundation”.
- The UK to be a global decarbonisation leader through achieving net zero emissions by 2050
- Lead the world in battery technology to combat climate change
- Produce green jobs for the future
The implications of other spending commitments for large infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Heathrow, are unclear.
The Prime Minister is a visionary and speaks fondly of large, bold infrastructure projects. Johnson has ambitiously pledged to deliver full fibre broadband to “every home in the land” by 2025 – eight years ahead of the government’s current goal – stating that the country is suffering from a deep digital divide. Openreach claims this commitment would cost £30 billion.
In contrast, he has committed to reviewing HS2, as he is sceptical of the business case. While the prospect of halting HS2 may be popular with a number of Conservative backbenchers, he may instead prioritise construction to the northern end of the high-speed rail line.
Johnson is also an opponent of a third runway at Heathrow. With a constituency under parts of the flight path, his diminished parliamentary majority in Uxbridge and South Ruslip may cause him to delay or avoid making a decision on the project.
- Full Fibre broadband for every home by 2025, at an estimated cost of £30 billion
- Reviewing the business case for HS2