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Johnson pledges to bring back Brexit deal before Christmas

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre) arrives at Euston station in London, as he heads to Telford for the launch of his party's manifesto at Telford International Centre in Telford, West Midlands. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Boris Johnson is promising to bring back his Brexit deal to Parliament before Christmas if the Tories are returned to power in the General Election on December 12.

The Prime Minister will unveil the party's election manifesto with pledge to open a "new chapter" in Britain's history - ensuring the country is out of the EU by the end of January.

It will include a "triple tax lock" - guaranteeing the rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT will not rise under a re-elected Conservative government.

The Tories are also promising a £1 billion boost for after-school and holiday childcare with the aim of providing on-site childcare for 250,000 more primary school children over the summer.

The manifesto will commit £6.3 billion for energy efficiency measures to cut fuel bills for 2.2 million homes targeting social housing and "fuel poor" families, while maintaining the current energy price cap.

There will be a £3 billion national skills fund as the first step towards creating a new "right to retrain".

In a clear appeal to motorists, the party is promising the country's "biggest ever" pothole-filling programme, with an injection of £2 billion as part of the Government national infrastructure strategy.

Mr Johnson described his decision to re-introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) - ratifying his Brexit deal with Brussels - in December as an "early Christmas present" for voters fed up with the wrangling over Britain's departure from the EU.

"As families sit down to carve up their turkeys this Christmas, I want them to enjoy their festive-season free from the seemingly unending Brexit box-set drama," he said in a statement ahead of the launch event in the West Midlands.

"The Conservative manifesto, which I'm proud to launch today, will get Brexit done and allow us to move on and unleash the potential of the whole country."

Although the bill cannot complete its passage through Parliament before Christmas, the move will be seen as a clear sign of Mr Johnson's determination to get it through in time for Britain to leave the EU by the January 31 deadline.

Following the election, the new House of Commons is due to sit for the first time on Tuesday December 17.

The first two days are likely to be taken up with the swearing in of the new MPs, potentially with the State Opening and the Queen's Speech on the Thursday.

That could mean MPs sitting the following Monday - the start of Christmas week - to allow the WAB to be formally introduced, although it is not clear whether there could be any further progress before the holiday.

MPs in the last parliament voted to back the bill at second reading, but the Prime Minister withdrew it after they refused to support a timetable motion to fast-track it through the Commons in just three days.

Mr Johnson said: "It's time to turn the page from the dither, delay and division of recent years, and start a new chapter in the incredible history of this country, the greatest place on Earth.

"We have achieved amazing things together in the past, and I know we will achieve even more in the future - if only we choose the right path at this critical election."

The announcement of the tax lock comes after Mr Johnson let slip last week that the manifesto would include a commitment to raise the threshold for national insurance contributions.

Initially it will go up to £9,500 saving 31 million taxpayers around £100-a-year. However Mr Johnson's suggestion it could rise to £12,500 - saving £500-a-year - is described as an "ambition" and it is unclear whether it will be met in the next parliament.

With older people traditionally more likely to go out and vote, the manifesto commits to maintain the pensions "triple lock", winter fuel payments and the older persons free bus pass.

There is a commitment to end "unfair" NHS car parking charges for protected groups - including staff working night shifts, as well as disabled and terminally ill patients and their families.

On climate change, the manifesto simply sticks to the existing commitment to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050 - a target seen as too weak by many environmental groups.

There will, however, be a ban on the export of plastic waste outside the OECD group of developed nations in an attempt to ensure less plastic is dumped in the oceans.

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