Whoever wins the general election, these are seven things that will happen straight after it

From US trade deals to taxation and foreign aid, some things realistically have to happen, whichever party is in the driving seat

Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 25 April 2017 19:45
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the STUC conference in Aviemore
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses the STUC conference in Aviemore

There is much to pay for in this election, and some irreversible changes at stake, but there are some surprising areas of convergence, if not consensus, about the future course of the country. There are also developments we can do little about, whoever is in power. Here are a few:

Britain will leave the EU

Unless there is a massive breakthrough by the Lib Dems – perfectly possible, though less likely than some might hope – or a change of leader and policy by the Labour Party in government over the next couple of years (ditto), then we know that either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May as prime minister would pursue some sort of Brexit, and with no second referendum on the final Brexit terms with the option of staying in. An unpalatable fact, maybe, but there we are.

You will be paying more tax

“You” being the electorate generally. Chances are that, as in the past few years under all three parties, richer families will be hit harder than poorer ones, but there is no escaping the fact that all three major national parties agree on this, whether they admit it or not.

It is why the Tories are preparing to ditch the law that prevents rises in income tax, National Insurance and VAT, and why Labour have started to discuss wealth taxes and defining the “rich” as those on more than £70,000 to £80,000, for example.

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The Lib Dems have always kept their tax options open, more or less, with the pledge to take millions on less than £10,000 a year out of income tax altogether one of the promises they did keep in coalition. You know what to expect. Tories say the difference is that they have a “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you” approach, as opposed to Labour and the Lib Dems’ supposed tax sadism, but the result will be the same: you will get spanked.

There will be some sort of cap on energy bills

Again, there is a cross-party consensus on this. Indeed it is difficult to find anyone in politics who disagrees with the idea of bringing the big six energy companies into line. Price controls, more competition, closer scrutiny by the regular or some mix of these may vary, but the politicians’ determination to see fairness in the gas and electricity market should not be underestimated.

We won't get an early trade deal with the US

This is because the Americans have more or less said so, and we don’t, in reality, have a special relationship with them. So it doesn’t matter to Donald Trump who inhabits Downing Street: Trump is putting America first, and, as it happens, the EU second.

We will spend 2 per cent of our national income on defence

Defence is one of the most controversial issues in this election, particularly when it comes to nuclear armaments and Trident; but the Nato pledge is one that all the parties say they will stick to.

Corbyn says that people need more time with their families on Labour's plan for four extra bank holidays

We will honour our international obligation to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on foreign aid

There is some debate about what to count here – whether to include aspects of the defence budget, for example, and different stresses on, say, aid to India and on scrutiny, but now that Theresa May has come out in favour of the target it is here to stay for another Parliament at any rate. Only a Ukip government would scrap it.

There will be more public spending on infrastructure

This is something all parties agreed on long before the election, with the major controversies over Heathrow expansion and the HS2 project largely taking place within parties rather than between them.

All the party leaders realise that Britain's infrastructure is key to success, with or without Brexit, and will be keen to talk it up and protect it (even if it means raising taxation).

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