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Fact checking the Labour manifesto: Jeremy Corbyn's claims examined

Jeremy Corbyn touting his party's flagship election policies. Credit: PA

Labour has launched its party manifesto, making several claims about Brexit, the environment and tax.

The independent fact-checking charity Full Fact has examined claims made in the party's manifesto.

Brexit

In his launch speech, Jeremy Corbyn said Boris Johnson’s claim that he will get Brexit done was "a fraud on the British people".

It’s not fraudulent of Boris Johnson to say his deal gets Brexit done. If approved by parliament, his withdrawal agreement - which is what he refers to as his "oven-ready" deal—would mean that the UK stops being a member of the EU.

But Jeremy Corbyn is right to point out that the Brexit process will continue for many years. Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement wouldn’t secure a trade deal with the EU.

The UK would enter a "transition period" during which we would still follow EU rules and pay money to the EU. This is set to run until the end of 2020 but could be extended by either one year or two.

At the end of the transition period, the UK could either start trading with the EU under the terms of a newly-negotiated trade deal, or start trading with the EU on WTO or no-deal terms.

Mr Corbyn also cited EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier as saying a UK-EU Brexit deal would take three years to negotiate.

Michel Barnier’s quote needs to be understood in context.

Last month, he said of a future trade deal: "We will have to renegotiate for one year, two years, three years, maybe more in some areas, to rebuild all that will have been pulled apart by the desire of those backing Brexit."

So he was not totally definitive, and the phrase "in some areas" is important.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his manifesto in Birmingham. Credit: PA

It might be possible for the UK and EU to conclude the trade deal before some smaller aspects are finalised.

For example, the EU’s trade deal with Canada came mostly into force in 2017, but some aspects were not implemented then.

Nonetheless, experts say extending the transition period beyond 2020 "may prove unavoidable".

It’s also worth noting that none of the EU’s other recent free trade agreements have been negotiated and provisionally implemented in under three years. One difference in this case is that Boris Johnson’s government and the EU have already agreed some broad principles for what a future deal should look like.

The EU’s track record brings us on to the question of how long a UK trade deal with the USA would take. Jeremy Corbyn says it would take "even longer" than three years, and he has previously pointed to the EU-Canada trade deal as an example.

That deal took five years to negotiate, and another two before it was provisionally applied. That doesn’t mean a UK-US trade deal necessarily would take as long. We’ve not seen any robust predictions for how long a UK-US deal would take, and we don’t yet know exactly what would be on the table during discussions.

Some major EU trade deals (for example with South Korea and Ukraine) have taken longer than seven years to provisionally implement, while others have been quicker than that.

Environment

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made pledges on the environment including more nuclear power. Credit: PA

The manifesto also claimed that "energy use in buildings accounts for 56% of the UK’s total emissions, making it the single most polluting sector".

This doesn’t seem quite right.

Transport is the single biggest sector for emissions in the UK at 27%.

We’ve seen Labour make a similar claim before, that "electricity and heat use in buildings, when taken together represent 56% of the UK total" of emissions. This seems to come from government breakdowns on which sectors released the most greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

It looks like Labour added together the emissions that come from the energy supply sector (24%), business (17%) and residential (15%) sectors, to get 56% of total emissions.

But it’s unclear how this relates to ‘buildings’ as Labour claims and we’re going to look into this further.

Tax

Labour says its manifesto has been fully costed. Credit: PA

Jeremy Corbyn also said Labour’s manifesto was costed with:

"No increases in VAT or income tax or National Insurance for anyone earning less than £80,000.

"There is no increases for 95% of taxpayers."

It’s correct that the Labour manifesto plans no increases in VAT, income tax or National Insurance for people earning less than £80,000.

It’s also correct that people earning less than £80,000 account for around 95% of taxpayers - somewhere between 95% and 96% according to 2016/17 figures from HMRC.

But that doesn’t mean Labour plans no tax rises whatsoever for these people, because there’s more to tax than just VAT, income tax and National Insurance.

For example Labour’s manifesto commits to scrapping marriage allowance, a policy introduced in 2015 which gives a tax break to couples with a combined income of under £62,500.

In 2018/19, 1.78 million people claimed marriage allowance at a cost of £485 million.

Apart from that there are various other taxes that could affect people with salaries of under £80,000.

Labour has pledged to reverse cuts to inheritance tax made by the Conservatives since 2017, which allowed people to pass on an amount of property tax-free, in addition to the existing £325,000 tax free allowance which applies to all assets.

Labour will introduce new property taxes, aimed at helping people get into the housing market. Credit: PA

Scrapping the property allowance will obviously affect higher earners more than lower earners, but that’s not to say that people earning less than £80,000 will be unaffected by the proposal.

Labour has also proposed extending the sugar tax to milk-based drinks, which will affect everyone who buys those products, regardless of salary.

Aside from taxes that affect individuals directly, there’s also taxes on businesses to consider.

Labour also plans to put corporation tax back up to 26%, following reductions over the past nine years.

We typically think of corporation tax being associated with large companies, but corporation tax is paid by all limited businesses.

Around one million UK businesses in 2017/18 had a corporation tax bill of up to £10,000, meaning in most cases their profits would have been no higher than £53,000.

Reversing reductions to corporation tax would affect the owners of these businesses some of whom will earn below £80,000 per year.