Johnson promises to end 'unbearable' uncertainty around Brexit

COVENTRY, England/LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday promised he would end the “unbearable” uncertainty around Brexit if he wins a Dec. 12 election, saying that political paralysis was affecting investment decisions in the country.

On a campaign trip to central England, Johnson said only he can break the deadlock over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The election was called to end three years of disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors’ faith in the stability of the world’s fifth-largest economy and damaged Britain’s standing since it voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

Johnson said the debate around Brexit had been paralysing politics for the last three years.

“We have to get Brexit done because it is the best thing for our politics and for our psychological health (and) it is also the best thing for the economy ... The uncertainty has become almost unbearable,” he said at a speech in a taxi factory in Coventry.

“There is now a pent-up tidal wave of new investment ... (people) are just waiting to greenlight their plans and if only we could get Brexit done, we could end their uncertainty.”

Johnson’s speech coincided with a policy announcement to invest 500 million pounds ($640 million) in completing a fast-charging network for electric vehicles.

But some in the industry are already voting with their feet.

Elon Musk, chief executive of U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla (TSLA.O), was quoted as saying he had decided to build a new factory in Berlin, not Britain, because Brexit posed too much of a risk.


Johnson, 55, hopes to win a majority to push through a Brexit deal he agreed with EU leaders. The deadline for Britain’s departure is Jan. 31.

On Wednesday, the main opposition Labour Party attempted to move the debate on to the National Health Service, on which it is traditionally strong. Labour said it would boost healthcare spending by 26 billion pounds over the next five years.

But the leaders of both main parties were heckled as they struggled to get their message heard.

Two onlookers heckled Johnson as he inspected relief efforts in a flood-hit district of northern England, several days after the worst of the flooding.

“You took your time, Boris,” one said. The other asked: “Where’ve you been?”.

Johnson defended the government’s response to the floods, and on Wednesday the government announced that farmers would be able to apply for grants of up to 25,000 pounds to help with the recovery.

“I’ve been twice now, I think in a week, to see what’s happening,” Johnson said, declining to apologise for the government’s handling of the response to the floods.

Opinion polls put Johnson’s Conservative Party far ahead but analysts caution that Brexit, which has divided both major parties and their voters, could confound conventional calculations.

Underlining the political flux, David Gauke, a former Conservative minister, said a clear win for Johnson’s party would be bad for Britain and that he would run in the election as an independent.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was heckled in the street in Scotland. He backs holding a second referendum to determine whether Britain should leave with a different deal he hopes to negotiate, or stay in the EU.

Johnson has also tried to exploit ambiguity over Corbyn’s position on a second Scottish independence referendum, saying a vote for Corbyn could see two referendums in 2020.

Corbyn ruled out another Scottish independence referendum if Labour won the election in the first term of a Labour government.

But later on Wednesday he changed tack slightly, leaving space for a Scottish independence referendum during any first term, if not in the early years of a Labour government.