Boris Johnson is to give a major speech on the UK’s Brexit crisis today, in what many commentators are seeing as a thinly-veiled pitch to be the new leader of the Conservative Party and therefore the next prime minister.
In the speech, which will be delivered at the headquarters of JCB, a multinational construction equipment manufacturer, in Staffordshire, England, Johnson is expected to lay out his vision for the UK after it leaves the European Union (EU).
The Daily Mail reports that Johnson will promise tax cuts, reduced immigration, and a narrowing of the economic gap between the UK’s capital city, London, and the rest of the country.
The speech comes at a time when the UK is in the middle of a major political crisis. Having voted to leave the EU in 2016, the country is committed to exiting by March 29. However, with just two months remaining until that deadline, no agreement has been reached on a deal to leave, meaning that a difficult exit from the World Trade Organization terms seems likely.
The provisional deal that Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the EU was rejected by British politicians by a huge margin earlier this week, making her position as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party extremely weak. Johnson will today become the latest senior Conservative MP to give a major speech which many people see as a pitch to become the next prime minister.
In his speech, Boris Johnson is expected to play down the risks of a no deal Brexit and highlight leaving the EU as an opportunity to restore British sovereignty and unite the country. He will also urge MPs to concentrate on the issues that caused the British people to vote to leave.
Johnson will say that Brexit was “triggered by a feeling that in some way the people of [Britain] have been drifting too far apart.”
“If you look at the distribution of the Brexit vote, it is clear that people felt that gap in attainments and prospects and that they wanted something done,” he will likely claim. “If we are to bring our nation together, that means investing in great public services and safer streets, better hospitals, better transport links and better housing.”
On tax, Johnson is expected to propose a more favorable tax system that encourages investment in the UK, while at the same time pledging to introduce no new taxes.
“[We must] create the most favourable tax environment with no new taxes and no increases in rates and no one rich or poor to pay more than 50 per cent of their income in tax – not because we want to create a tax haven for the rich but because that it is the way to stimulate the income,” he will say.
Johnson is also expected to turn his fire on corporate executives who he will accuse of “using unlimited [EU] migration to hold down wages.”
“I am a free market capitalist and a passionate believer in the benefits of migration – but there must be a balance,” he will say. “And if an influx of labour is being used not only to prevent investment in capital equipment but also in the skills and prospects of young people, then we need to think carefully about how we control immigration.
“Because if we want the people of Britain to have a pay rise, as I do, then we can’t expect to do it by simply controlling immigration, we have to address all the causes of the productivity gap that has so massively expanded.”