Why is Brexit taking centre stage in the election campaign?

Perhaps inevitably Brexit has taken centre stage in the election campaign so far with all the main parties using the most contentious political issue of the day to try and score points against each other.

So here we look at some of the claims and counter claims being bandied about.

First off, why is Brexit still such a hot topic after Boris Johnson struck a new deal with Brussels and the House of Commons gave it the nod?

POLITICS Brexit
(PA Graphics)

Well MPs did not actually pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. They only voted in favour of a second reading, the first step in the process of Parliament passing the Bill.

It still has to get through committee stage, when MPs can examine it in detail and add amendments, as well as report stage and third reading.

None of this can happen now until after the election.

If his deal has not been approved, how is Boris Johnson seeking to use Brexit to his advantage in the election campaign?

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Boris Johnson at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting (PA/Tolga Akmen)

He is hoping to attract people who voted Leave– and others who have just had enough of the uncertainty – with the claim that he is the man to finally deliver what the nation voted for way back in 2016.

Obviously the Tories will need to win a majority on December 12 to ensure that but they see Brexit as a weak spot for Labour, not least because so many Labour seats voted Leave in the referendum.

Mr Johnson says he has struck a great deal with the EU “which takes back control of our trade, laws, money and borders” and he has accused Jeremy Corbyn of dodging questions about Labour’s Brexit plans.

What is Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy then?

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Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Harlow (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

To accuse the Tories of planning a post-Brexit “race to the bottom” by  scrapping all sorts of rules on the environment, food standards, consumer protection and tax avoidance.

The Labour leader has repeatedly criticised the PM’s deal, accusing Mr Johnson preparing to unleash “Thatcherism on steroids”, stripping workers of their rights and seeking to “hijack” Brexit so he can sell out the NHS to US pharmaceutical giants.

What has the NHS got to do with Brexit?

Labour claims the Tories would have to open up the NHS to US drugs companies as part of any future trade deal with Washington, which could increase the drugs bill for the UK’s health service.

But the Conservatives have consistently denied the NHS would be on the table in trade talks with President Donald Trump’s administration.

What does Mr Trump say?

During his UK visit in June he said “everything with the trade deal is on the table”.  But then last week he accused Mr Corbyn of making “ridiculous” claims about the NHS, adding: “It’s not for us to have anything to do with your health care system. No, we’re just talking about trade.”

What about the other parties and Brexit?

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Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson launching her election campaign (Steve Parsons/PA)

The LibDems and the SNP are both in favour of remaining in the EU.

Scotland voted Remain in the referendum so for SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon the strategy is a no-brainer.

LibDem leader Jo Swinson is also hoping to hoover up Remainer votes across England, Wales and Scotland by campaigning to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU, contrasting that “clear” position with what the Lib Dems claim is Labour “dithering” over Brexit.

What about Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party?

Mr Farage claims Mr Johnson’s deal is BRINO – Brexit in name only. He says the divorce terms agreed by the PM would see Britain tied to EU rules to such a degree that trade deals with non-EU countries – including the US – would be “hindered”.

He has also resisted pressure not to field candidates in seats where they could split the Brexit vote and let in Labour, insisting his party will damage Mr Corbyn’s party in seats across Wales, the Midlands and the north of England which voted for Brexit.

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