Boris Johnson will promise new support for the whisky industry today as he makes his first campaign stop in Scotland, seeking defend Conservative gains at the last election from the SNP.
The Prime Minister will visit a whisky distillery in Moray as producers struggle to respond to a 25 per cent tariff imposed by Mr Johnson’s ally, US president Donald Trump.
It comes amid growing speculation the Conservatives will pledge to review the UK’s complex spirit duty regime – which the whisky industry says unfairly taxes its product – and fuels hopes of a potential cut in home-grown tariffs.
READ MORE: General Election: Boris Johnson and Tories must stick to the truth – leader comment
READ MORE: General Election: The reasons why excluding SNP from TV debates is so wrong – Laura Waddell
Meanwhile, in a shock announcement last night, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he was standing down as an MP, dealing a blow to moderates in the party.
Last night Mr Johnson pledged to “never give up on our incredible Union” and accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of “dancing to the SNP’s tune” by leaving open the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The Prime Minister will visit Scotland as part of a three-nation election swing following the Tories’ campaign launch rally in Birmingham last night, which will also see him stop in north-east England and Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson urged voters to back the Tories to prevent indyref2 and “get Brexit done”.
He said: “Only a vote for the Conservatives will stop the SNP’s plans to break up the UK – the most fantastic and successful political union in the world. I will never give up on our incredible union.
“By contrast, Nationalist MPs have one job only – to be Nicola Sturgeon’s little Westminster helpers and secure another divisive independence referendum.”
Last month International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told the Commons the government was “looking at measures” to support the whisky industry as it deals with tariffs.
Tax and duties make up nearly three-quarters of the cost of a bottle of whisky in the UK. Taxes on UK-produced spirits are 16 per cent higher than on imported wine.
Last night, the Prime Minister personally urged Mr Trump to lift tariffs that the whisky industry warns could cut a £1 billion export trade by 20 per cent and ultimately cost jobs, mainly in rural Scotland.
Meanwhile, a day after he had been due to deliver a post-Brexit Budget, Chancellor Sajid Javid will give a speech comparing Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell to conspiracy theorists, claiming they are “the anti-vaxxers of economic policy”.
Mr Javid is expected to say: “Not only did they reject the treatment needed to heal our economy and get the deficit down by four-fifths, they now want to take every step imaginable to make the country sick and unhealthy again.
“After a decade of recovery, of difficult decisions, we can’t let Labour turn back the clock, let spending get out of control and make hard-working families pay the price.”
Last night, cheered onto the stage by Tory activists chanting “Boris, Boris”, the Prime Minister said the election on 12 December will be “the most important in a generation”.
He said he had been forced to go to the country because Parliament was “paralysed” over Brexit, comparing it to “an anaconda which had swallowed a tapir”.
Mr Johnson claimed that “for three-and-a-half years we have had non-stop political manoeuvring to stop Brexit and thwart the will of the people,” adding that Labour would bring about more “dither and delay”.
Delivering a Tory majority would unleash a “surge of confidence” and investment in the UK, the Prime Minister promised.
Earlier, he travelled to Buckingham Palace for a final audience with the Queen, with Parliament dissolved at a minute past midnight on Wednesday.
Speaking outside No 10, Mr Johnson acknowledged that there was little public appetite for an election in the run-up to Christmas. But he said Parliament’s refusal to deliver Brexit – which had left him wanting to “chew my own tie” in frustration – meant that he had no choice but to go to the country.
Meanwhile Mr Corbyn, speaking in his home town of Telford, said he would be a “very different” prime minister if Labour won the election.
“I was not born to rule. None of us in this room were born to rule,” he said: “I don’t pursue the kind of politics that thinks it’s … a debating society game.
“I want to seek power for our party in order to share that power out all across the country, and with all those communities that would have contributed to this historic Labour election victory, which we’re looking forward to on 12 December.”