Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn shake hands during the ITV Leaders Debate on November 19, 2019 in Salford, England.
Jonathan Hordle | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The countdown to the U.K. election has entered its final days with Britons waiting to find out who will control the country’s departure from the European Union — an event that will have profound changes on Britain for decades to come.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains the favorite to win on Thursday, although his lead has narrowed in opinion polls in recent weeks.
Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Johnson said he was nervous about the narrowing polls and said he and his Conservative Party were “fighting for every vote.” The Conservatives’ lead differs between polls but numbers over the last week have given the party a lead of between nine and 15 points ahead of its rival Labour.
The “Britain Elects” poll tracker, run by the New Statesman magazine, gives the Conservatives 42.9% of the vote with the opposition Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, on 33%.
The Liberal Democrats, a staunchly anti-Brexit party, are seen with 12.6% of the vote. The Brexit Party and Green Party are seen with around 3% of the vote each.
There is wariness over the accuracy of opinion polls after they did not predict the outcome of the Brexit referendum in June 2016, nor the outcome of the snap election of 2017 in which then-Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in Parliament.
Johnson is also looking to regain his majority in the 650-seat Parliament this election in order to see through his Brexit deal. His predecessor May fell on her sword and gave up the party leadership when her Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament three times.
Johnson’s Brexit deal is currently in limbo and has not been fully ratified by U.K. lawmakers. The EU granted the country yet another extension to the Brexit departure date, to January 31, 2020.
The U.K. departure has dominated the political campaigning of all parties, with Labour insisting that a Brexit deal would be put back to the people for a final vote. Meanwhile, Johnson told Sky News on Sunday that he would deliver a “transformative” Brexit.
When it comes to economic pledges, the Conservatives and Labour are offering radically different plans for the U.K.’s economy, the fifth largest in the world.
Labour wants to nationalize swathes of the utility and transport sector and to increase taxes for corporations while the Tories have promised not to raise income tax, value-added tax (VAT) or national insurance contributions (which entitle workers to certain state benefits).
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told CNBC’s Willem Marx on Monday that nationalization has already been a proven success in the United Kingdom, highlighting the post-war era when Labour brought utilities into public hands under the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee.
“Actually they maintained public ownership for thirty years, it was only Mrs.Thatcher that started privatizing them,” said McDonnell, who added that the privatization spree in the 1980s had, at times, been a “catastrophic failure.”
“We have seen profittering on a scale that I think people feel is obscene,” said McDonnell who claimed that many U.K. industries are natural monolopies that people wanted brought back into public ownership.
Both parties have pledged that they will increase spending for the National Health Service (NHS) which has become a battleground between the parties.
Labour alleged that the Conservative Party will “sell off” the NHS to U.S. corporations as part of a post-Brexit trade deal. The Conservatives deny this and so does President Donald Trump, who said last week during his visit to London for the NATO summit that he wouldn’t want the NHS even if “it was offered on a silver platter.”
Paul Jackson, global head of asset allocation and research at Invesco ETFs, told CNBC Monday that a Johnson win could be a mixed blessing for markets.
“We think, based on everything we’re seeing, that the Conservatives will win a majority, perhaps not as big as we originally thought … Brexit gets done — which the markets are first thinking ‘phew, that’s out of the way,’ but secondly, Boris Johnson is not Jeremy Corbyn, so they think that’s good news,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”
“But the bad news is that then the process of getting a future trade deal with the European Union starts and the way that Boris Johnson has set this up, we could still have a no-deal outcome, and I think the markets will start to worry about that during the course of next year so I suspect sterling will come down again.”
Sterling rose to a more than two-year high against the euro following the latest opinion poll showing the Conservative Party with a 14-point lead over Labour in the final week before the election. The pound is currently trading at 1.3172 against the dollar.