Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, grammar schools or renationalized railways? The UK general election.

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by Liz Walter

UK citizens are going to the polls on June 8th to choose their next government. Again.

Yes, we had a general election in 2015, and yes, in theory, we have a five-year fixed-term parliament, so really we should have waited until 2020. However, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, decided that it would be a good idea to call a snap election (one decided suddenly). Since this is a language blog, I won’t speculate on her reasons, but instead concentrate on the language being used in the campaign.

In 2015, I posted an article about words and phrases connected to the way our electoral system functions.  And I wrote a similar one about US elections last year.

So this post will look more at some of the political issues that are dominating the campaigns. Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union) is of course high on the agenda, with much debate about whether we should have a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit. The former would see us give up access to the single market (where there are no restrictions on trade between EU countries) and the customs union (in which members have free trade with one another and agree one rate of tariffs (taxes) for trade with other countries). The latter would seek to maintain these agreements as far as possible from outside the EU.

A related issue is immigration. Labour has promised that EU citizens resident (living) in this country can stay, while the Conservatives want promises for UK citizens in Europe first. Many people who voted ‘Leave’ said they want to control our borders (decide who can and can’t live in the UK), and as part of this, they want to end freedom of movement (the right of EU citizens to live and work in any EU country).

The economy is another huge area of disagreement, with the current government wanting to continue its policy of austerity (low public spending). They say we need to reduce the national debt. Labour points out that national debt has in fact risen under the Conservatives and favour increased investment, higher taxes for high earners, and a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance. All of this shows an enormous difference in the parties’ attitudes to the welfare state, or how much government should step in to look after its citizens.

One issue both main parties are agreed on is capping energy bills (putting a limit on how much companies can charge for gas and electricity). However, this is one of the very few areas of agreement. This election is notable for truly huge differences in policy between the two major parties. Issues such as bringing back grammar schools (a Conservative proposal for secondary education based on pupil ability at the age of 11) or renationalizing the railways (a Labour plan to have railways under government control again) both divide voters and give them a very real choice.

At least, this time nobody can say all the parties are the same.

8 thoughts on “Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, grammar schools or renationalized railways? The UK general election.

    1. Liz Walter

      They would both be corrrect in the heading of this post. ‘Renationalized’ is acting as an adjective, so you could say ‘We believe that renationalized railways would be more efficient’. (but not renationalizing). And renationalizing is used as a verb – ‘Renationalizing the railways is a priority for us’ (but not renationalized).

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