Nigel Farage pledges to axe net zero as Reform UK launches populist manifesto

Nigel Farage has launched the Reform UK manifesto with a number of populist pledges including proposed spending of £141bn a year as the rightwing party seeks to make inroads into Labour heartlands.

Policies in the Reform programme, which Farage claimed was not a manifesto but a “contract” with the British public, included axing the net zero plan entirely and introducing life imprisonment for convicted drug dealers, along with wide-ranging cuts to personal tax, which have been greeted with scepticism by economists.

Tax cuts include raising the minimum threshold for income tax to £20,000 a year, abolishing stamp duty and abolishing inheritance tax for all estates under £2m.

Reform said it planned to fund the cuts by raising £40bn from reducing the interest paid on Bank of England reserves.

But in an assessment of the plans, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said such a measure was “unlikely to raise even half” of that sum, adding that the party’s tax and spending plans “don’t add up” and were out “by a margin of tens of billions of pounds per year”.

In an assessment, it said the party’s “spending reductions would save less than stated, and the tax cuts would cost more than stated.”

Related: Do Reform UK’s election claims on tax, immigration and environment add up?

Launching the party’s election pledges in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, Farage said the former industrial town was “skint” and “in real trouble” as he suggested having a “slimmed-down public sector” while maintaining services.

Farage claimed that Reform’s plans amounted to a “fundamental change” of Britain’s economy and society and that the biggest beneficiaries would be people “trapped on benefits”.

“There is a lot more here for those on the lower end of the income scale than anyone else,” he said.

However, the manifesto advocates abolishing inheritance tax for all estates, as well as reducing the corporation tax rate from 25% to 20%.

The document also makes a play for social conservatives with calls for marriage to be supported with a 25% transferable marriage tax allowance, allowing for no tax on the first £25,000 of income for either spouse.

The party would freeze “non-essential” immigration, pull Britain out of the European convention on human rights and “pick up illegal migrants out of boats and take them back to France”.

Pressed afterwards on whether the latter could be done without negotiations, Farage said: “If it happens, it happens.”

The party chose the Gurnos district of Merthyr Tydfil as the venue for the launch, an area that had been a byword in the past for deprivation but which has benefited from recent regeneration.

Related: Nigel Farage says he is ‘leader of the opposition’ after Reform UK poll boost

While Conservative central office was restrained in its criticism of the Reform manifesto, individual candidates weighed in.

They included Matt Warman, a former minister and senior figure on his party’s centrist wing, who said: “Reform want people to think they’re honest and straight-talking. The reality is their numbers don’t even begin to add up – when trust in politicians is at an all-time low, it’s the height of irresponsibility to seek power knowing nothing about their plans is deliverable.”

On law and order, the party backed mass stop and search policies, with Farage telling the event that it was time for the police to “stop worrying about whether they are called prejudiced”.

Culture war rhetoric runs through the document, which claims that public institutions had been captured by a “divisive, ‘woke’ ideology”. In education, it states that any teaching about a period or example of British or European imperialism or slavery “must be paired with the teaching of a non-European occurrence of the same to ensure balance”.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, seeking to distance himself from questions on Farage’s plan to woo voters in Labour heartlands, said during a visit to Southampton that the election was “a straight choice between Conservatives and Labour”, which could benefit his Tory opponents but may do little to detract attention from Farage.

There was a qualified welcome to some aspects of Reform’s plans from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a conservative lobby group, but it said the plans were “big on promises” and details for reining in spending needed to be spelled out for taxpayers.