Tory manifesto: Theresa May sets her stall out for hard Brexit

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The PM reasserted her 'strong and stable' pledge repeatedly (PA)
The PM reasserted her ‘strong and stable’ pledge repeatedly (PA)

Theresa May has admitted the Government will continue to contribute to the European Union after Britain leaves the EU as she doubled-down on pursuing a hard Brexit.

In a clear sign that the Prime Minister plans to press on with a hard Brexit, the Tory manifesto also states that “no” Brexit deal would be better than a “bad” deal.

“The negotiations will undoubtedly be tough, and there will be give and take on both sides, but we continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK,” it says.

The document also pledges to come to a “fair settlement” for Britain’s EU exit bill – but warns Brussels that the days of Britain “making vast annual contributions to the European Union will end”.

“As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so, it will be reasonable that we make a contribution,” it says.

The Conservatives have pledged to secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British expats in Europe, as well as confirming Britain will remain part of the European Convention of Human Rights for the next Parliament.

The Conservatives are strong favourites to win the election, which means the manifesto pledges in relation to Brexit are a clear indication of the Mrs May’s plans.

The manifesto states the Government will:

  • Exit the European single market and customs union but seek a “deep and special partnership” including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

  • Offer a vote in both Houses of Parliament on the “final agreement” for Brexit.

  • Assess whether to continue with specific European programmes and it “will be reasonable that we make a contribution” to the ones which continue.

  • Agree terms of future partnership with EU alongside withdrawal, both within the two years allowed under Article 50.

  • Convert EU law into UK law and later allow parliament to pass legislation to “amend, repeal or improve” any piece of this.

  • Remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the next parliament.

  • Repealing or replacing the Human Rights Act “while the process of Brexit is under way” ruled out, although consideration will be given to the UK’s “human rights legal framework” when Brexit concludes.

The manifesto also explicitly rejects the ideological stance of the libertarian right, leading many to suggest Mrs May is trying to distance herself from Margaret Thatcher.

It states: “We must reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and instead embrace the mainstream view that recognises the good that government can do.

“Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.”

But when asked whether this was the case, the PM dodged the question.

The manifesto states that there are five key challenges that face the country:

1. A strong economy that works for everyone

2. A strong and united nation in a changing world

3. The world’s great meritocracy .

4. A restored contract between the generations

5. Prosperity and security in a digital age

The publication of the manifesto follows a morning in which Mrs May came under fire over plans to force elderly people to pay to be looked after in their own homes.

The Tory manifesto launched on Thursday will offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less, a dramatic increase from the current £23,250 level in England.

In order to make the system sustainable, the value of someone’s property will now be included in the means test for care in their own home, meaning more people will be liable to contribute to the cost of being looked after.

The general election plans have drawn immediate condemnation from opponents.

Andrew Dilnot, the former Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies who led the review into funding for social care in England in 2011, has said the new thinking “shows a less than full understanding of the problems”.

“The disappointment… is that they fail to tackle the biggest problem of all in social care – which is that people are faced with a position of no control,” he said.

“There is nothing you can do to protect yourself against care costs.

“You can’t insure it because the private sector won’t insure it and by refusing to implement a cap, the conservatives are saying they won’t to provide social insurance

“People will be left helpless if they are unlucky enough to suffer care costs they will be entirely on their own.

The winter fuel payment, worth between £100 and £300, will be means-tested and targeted at the least well-off pensioners instead of being a universal benefit paid to all.

But as well as the measures to put more money into the system, the Tories will also put in place protections for people faced with potentially crippling care costs.

Under the current system, care costs can deplete an individual’s assets, including in some cases the family home, down to £23,250 or even less with no protection.

That will be replaced with a £100,000 floor, allowing elderly people to retain more of their wealth or pass it on to their families.

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The Conservatives said the policy was fairer than the planned £72,000 cap on care costs which was due to be introduced in 2020 but will now be axed.

Mrs May, who caused controversy yesterday by sticking up for Donald Trump, will risk further angering older voters by scrapping the triple-lock on the state pension, which guarantees it rises by the highest of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

She has also ditched the “tax lock” introduced by David Cameron which forbids the Tories from raising income tax, VAT or national insurance contributions.

Other measures include:

– Maintaining the commitment to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands”

– Increasing the amount levied on firms employing migrant workers

– Requiring foreign workers and overseas students to pay more to cover the cost of NHS care

– Scrapping universal free school lunches for infant pupils in England but offering free breakfasts across the primary years

– Pumping an extra £4 billion a year into the schools system by 2022

– A package of proposals to help consumers avoid being ripped off

The plan to scrap universal free school lunches has also come under fire, with Nick Clegg, who helped introduce the policy as part of the Coalition Government, slamming the move:

Ahead of the publication of the Tory manifesto, Labour produced a dossier listing what it claimed were 50 broken Conservative promises.

Labour’s campaign chief Andrew Gwynne said: “Theresa May pretends otherwise, but she is a politician with a track record of failure and broken promises.

“From the economy to the NHS, and policing to schools, Theresa May’s Tories have failed again and again to deliver on the pledges they made.”

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