UK election: Johnson and Corbyn make business pitches ahead of TV debate

By Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 5:48 p.m. ET, November 18, 2019
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5:48 p.m. ET, November 18, 2019

We're wrapping up our live coverage

We're closing our election live blog for today, but we'll be back tomorrow when Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn go head-to-head in the first TV debate of the campaign.

Catch up on the day's developments below.

11:49 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Lib Dems and SNP lose televised debate challenge

The Liberal Democrats and the SNP have lost a High Court challenge against their exclusion from Tuesday's TV debate.

Tomorrow's broadcast on ITV will see Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn go head to head, but the decision to leave out other parties had infuriated Jo Swinson and Nicola Sturgeon.

However, two judges have ruled there had been "no arguable breach of the Broadcasting Code," meaning Tuesday's two-person debate and a similar BBC program in December will go ahead as planned.

10:02 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Swinson: businesses are paying the price as Johnson "plays at being Prime Minister"

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson confirmed her party would pursue a second Brexit referendum if it failed to win a majority at the election, and accused Boris Johnson of wreaking havoc with businesses in his attempts to secure a hard Brexit.

"Boris Johnson talked of a Brexit boom this morning, but we know it is much more likely to be a Brexit bust," Swinson said at the CBI conference

"I can only imagine how frustrating it is for all of you, every time we end up days away from crashing out of the EU. How frustrating it is to watch the government recklessly pursue a policy that would be damaging to your business," she told business leaders.

"How frustrating it is that you are having to pay such a high price just so Boris Johnson gets to play at being Prime Minister. Just so the man who said 'f**k business' can sit in Number 10."

Swinson also said the Liberal Democrats would "scrap business rates and replace them with a commercial landowner levy."

9:47 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Extinction Rebellion launch series of disruptive actions around election campaign

The climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has launched what it calls a "series of disruptive actions" in the run-up to next month's general election, targeting party headquarters with hunger strikes and demanding leaders meet with them during the campaign.

The group, which has occupied several major roads in London and across the UK over the past year, delivered letters to the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats asking for a filmed meeting with their leaders.

Hunger strikers also protested outside the parties' headquarters on Monday, forming the first part of the group's "Election Rebellion" actions.

8:42 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Swinson criticizes Prince Andrew after widely condemned TV interview

Hollie Adams/Getty Images
Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said she found Prince Andrew's interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein "really hard to listen to."

"I watched that interview, I'm sure many people did, and what struck me was that what wasn't really discussed was the people who are most important in all of this, which are the victims," Swinson told Britain's PA news agency.

"There were other parts of that language that I found very difficult, talking about sexual abuse as behavior that was 'unbecoming,' Swinson added. "And the point were he said it is a positive act for a man to have sex. That would suggest for a woman it is not a positive act."

"Some of that language I also found really hard to listen to," Swinson told reporters at a campaign stop. "I think, like most people watching it, I found it a very troubling thing to see. And, I just couldn't quite understand how somebody could be talking about their relationship with that man without recognizing, or understanding, or discussing how he felt about those victims.

Andrew's responses during the interview with the BBC, which aired in Britain on Saturday and has dominated discussion in the country since, were widely condemned by viewers.

One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has alleged that she was forced into sexual encounters with the prince while underage. In a 2015 federal court filing, Giuffre alleged Epstein forced her to perform sex acts with several prominent men, including Prince Andrew in 2001. All of them have denied the allegations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson swerved two questions about Prince Andrew during his appearance at the CBI conference earlier, saying he won't get "dragged into" controversies surrounding the Royal Family."

7:33 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

The Prince Andrew interview has thrown a fireblanket over this election

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson at a remembrance event in London on November 9.
Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson at a remembrance event in London on November 9. Chris Jackson/- WPA Pool/Getty Images

The UK has been bogged down by Brexit for over three years and the public is increasingly sick of hearing about it.

But this week in Britain, there's only one story in town: Prince Andrew's excruciating interview with the BBC's Emily Maitlis about his relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The fascination in the story is understandable and the allegations, of course, are very serious. A man with the power and influence of the Queen's son giving such glib answers in an interview that he'd agreed to is a huge story and merits extensive coverage.

However, it's hard not to look at everything in the context of the UK's election. Ever since the campaign started, both Boris Johnson and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn have been trying to avoid talking in detail about the single most important issue facing the country today -- Brexit.

Instead, this campaign has been mostly dominated by hit jobs on rival candidates and both main parties pledging to shower the nation in cash, without giving much detail on where the money would actually come from.

Normally, election campaigns are a time when leaders and candidates want as much coverage as possible to sell their vision for the country to the nation.

But with both parties slinging so much mud at one another, Corbyn and Johnson may well be content to see this royal scandal dominate coverage for a few days, if not the rest of the week. That's especially true in a week that's expected to see the launch of party manifestos -- traditionally the time when policy pledges are pulled apart by experts.

It's almost inevitable that both men will be asked questions about the Andrew story when they face one another in a face-to-face debate on Tuesday. In that respect, the prince has thrown a fire blanket on both Brexit and the election campaign. And, it seems, the public are entirely happy to be distracted from the nation's Brexit fatigue.

Read more here.

7:17 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Corbyn hits back at anti-Semitism accusations

BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn was pressed on the anti-Semitism allegations that have dogged his leadership and the Labour Party after finishing his speech at the CBI conference, telling the audience he "hates racism in any form whatsoever."

"Racism is a scourge and an evil for all of us in our lives," Corbyn said after being asked whether his party is "for the many, not the Jew" -- a reference to his campaign slogan, "For the many, not the few."

"I've spent my life opposing racism in any form, be it done by the far right or by random attacks on individuals, or against a man that was murdered outside my house because he happened to be a Muslim," Corbyn said, referring to an attack on a mosque in his north London constituency in 2017.

Corbyn's party has come under attack on numerous occasions for failing to appropriately tackle accusations of anti-Semitism within the group.

"The history of the Jewish people has been one of the most unbelievable and egregious attacks on them in central Europe ... that is where racism leads you to if you don't challenge it in the first place," Corbyn added.

He also confirmed plans to audit "the way in which the public sector and private sector recruit ... to ensure everyone has a chance and a place in our society."

7:09 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Labour announces plans for 320,000 climate internships

Jeremy Corbyn confirmed Labour's plans to create 320,000 climate internships if he wins the general election.

"Work with us to change the way the economy works, so that it really does work for everyone, and help save our children and grandchildren from climate breakdown," he told business leaders at the CBI conference.

Quizzed on his plan to hold a confirmatory referendum on a softer Brexit plan, Corbyn said: "We've put this forward as a way of bringing people together, and bringing an end to this endless debate."

And Corbyn said his plans to introduce free broadband would help businesses grow in rural areas, telling the conference there was a problem "when South Korea can manage 95% access to high quality broadband and we manage 10%."

6:44 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Corbyn tells business leaders: You're going to see more investment than you've ever dreamed of

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn has hit back at claims he is anti-business and promised financial leaders investment on an unprecedented scale if he becomes Prime Minister.

"I hope you enjoyed the warm up act that's just left the stage," the Labour leader joked after following Boris Johnson's speech.

"It is sometimes claimed that i am anti-business. Actually, this is nonsense," he added.

"It's not anti business to be against poverty pay," or to insist larger corporations "should pay their taxes just as smaller companies do," Corbyn said. "And it's not anti-business to want prosperity in every part of our country -- not only in the financial centers of the City of London."

"I say this to business too: if a Labour government is elected on December 12, you're going to see more investment than you've ever dreamed of," he added.

"You're going to have the best educated workforce you could ever have hoped for, and you're going to get the world-leading infrastructure, including full fibre broadband you've long, long demanded, year after year at these conferences."