November 13, 2019 / 11:13 AM / 25 days ago

British PM Johnson, on campaign trail, to pledge swift resolution on Brexit

LONDON, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise on Wednesday to end the delays over Britain’s departure from the European Union if he wins next month’s election and he will describe the opposition Labour Party’s plans as political “onanism”.

Johnson was scheduled to make a campaign speech at a factory in the West Midlands where, according to prepared remarks, he will say that the rest of the world cannot understand why so much time has been spent agonising over Brexit.

Britons will vote on Dec. 12 in an election called to end three years of deep disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors’ faith in the stability of the world’s fifth largest economy and damaged Britain’s standing in the world.

Voters, he will say, face a historic choice between the Conservatives and a Labour Party that threatens more political self-obsession and onanism - an old fashioned word for masturbation - due to its support for a second referendum.

“The UK is admired and respected around the world but people are baffled by our debate on Brexit and they cannot understand how this great country can squander so much time and energy on this question and how we can be so hesitant about our future,” Johnson will say.

“If we can get a working majority we can get parliament working for you, we can get out of the rut. We can end the groundhoggery of Brexit,” Johnson said in an apparent reference to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day in which a TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again.

His day got off to a tricky start however. As he observed relief efforts in a flood-hit district of northern England, several days after the worst of the flooding, two onlookers heckled him.

“You took your time, Boris,” one person told Johnson as he walked through the area accompanied by local officials, while another asked him: “Where’ve you been?”.

Opposition parties have criticised Johnson and his government for a slow response to the flooding, which claimed one life last week.

ELECTION GAMBLE

Johnson, 55, hopes to win a majority to push through the last-minute Brexit deal he struck with the European Union last month after the bloc granted a third delay to the divorce that was originally supposed to take place on March 29.

Voters who took part in a June 2016 referendum voted 52-48% in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

Johnson will argue in his speech that a vote for Labour will raise the prospect of two more referendums, one on Britain’s membership of the EU, and another on Scottish independence, which risks ripping apart the United Kingdom.

The prime minister, who is known for his florid use of language, described that prospect as “an expense of spirit and a waste of shame, more political self-obsession and onanism.”

The first December election in Britain since 1923 will be one of the hardest to forecast in years. Brexit has scrambled voters’ traditional loyalties and is giving smaller rivals a chance to challenge the two biggest parties, Johnson’s Conservative Party and the left-of-centre Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Opinion polls show the Conservatives are well ahead of Labour, but analysts caution the overshadowing issue of Brexit, which has divided both major parties and their voters, could confound conventional calculations.

Labour will on Wednesday look to move the debate away from Brexit and onto the National Health Service, traditionally stronger ground for their party, with a pledge to boost healthcare spending by 26 billion pounds over the next five years.

In another threat to Johnson, former Conservative cabinet minister David Gauke said he would stand as an independent candidate to try to deny the prime minister what he called a “very hard Brexit”.

Gauke for the first time endorsed calls for a second referendum, arguing that there was no longer any chance of uniting the country around a divorce that offered a close relationship with the EU. (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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