THE UK faces its most difficult period in 60 years Theresa May said yesterday as she unveiled the Tory manifesto for next month’s General Election.

To shouts and jeers of protest from outside, the Prime Minister presented a stark image of the future as she raised the prospect of Britain crashing out of the European Union without a trade deal.

On top of ongoing cuts to benefits and tax credits, the Conservative’s manifesto pledges to scrap winter fuel payments for all pensioners and ditch the “triple lock” to protect pensions. Pledges made in 2015 not to raise income tax or national insurance have been dropped.

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“The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime. Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity,” she told journalists as she attempted to rally voters in a bid to “get a good deal from Brussels”.

In contrast with the 2015 manifesto, which pledged to ‘’work to eliminate’’ child poverty, May’s agenda promised only to ‘’reduce levels of child poverty’’. In an attempt to appeal to business it pledged to slash corporation tax to 17 per cent by 2020.

And it also included a promise to balance the budget by 2025 – five years later than previously promised.

While there may have been a hint of good news for English voters in promises to increase spending on schools by £4 billion by 2022, and to raise NHS spending each year to £8bn a year extra by 2022, those came on the back of controversial changes to social care funding south of the Border.

Under her plan people in England and Wales with assets of more than £100,000 will have to pay for their care – but could defer payment until after their death – a move being labelled a “death tax”.

On Brexit she restated her “no deal would be better than a bad deal” stance, a move previously described by some as reckless with experts estimating it would lead to more than 80,000 job losses in Scotland, less money for public services as well as trade tariffs and rising prices.

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KEY MANIFESTO PLEDGES

  • Scrap the triple-lock on the state pension
  • Means test winter fuel payments
  • Scrap free school lunches for infants in England
  • Net migration cut to below 100,000
  • Increase the amount levied on firms employing non-EU workers
  • Increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 by 2020
  • Simplify the tax system
  • Consider ban on “cold call” personal injury companies
  • Immigration cut to under 100,000
  • Second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press will not take place
  • Create a “national infrastructure police force”, which brings together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and British Transport Police
  • Non-fracking drilling treated as permitted development no longer needing planning permission
  • 'Maintain' the overall size of the armed forces
  • Retain the Trident continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent

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Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, described the Conservative manifesto as “cruel and callous” with planned cuts that will hit pensioners, working families and public services.

“The Tory manifesto is a cruel and callous attack on families – with deep austerity cuts that will hit pensioners, families, and our public services.

“We know the devastating reality of seven years of Tory Government – working families hammered by cuts to tax credits, low income families forced to rely on foodbanks, and disgraceful Tory policies like the bedroom tax, the rape clause, and the cuts to disabled mobility support.

“Now the Tories are hitting pensioners by effectively cutting their pensions and restricting the Winter Fuel Payment, and they are squeezing family budgets with their continued assault on welfare.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the social care plan as a “tax on dementia” which would see people with long-lasting and extreme conditions run up vast bills.

“Millions of pensioners are betrayed by Theresa May’s manifesto,” said Corbyn.

“She is hitting older people with a classic Nasty Party triple-whammy: Scrapping the triple lock on pensions, removing the winter fuel allowance and forcing those who need social care to pay for it with their homes.”

Ross Greer, for the Scottish Greens, said: “The Tories’ plans to rip us out of the European single market and scrap human rights and other hard-won social and environmental protections will cost Scottish jobs, wages, our health service and universities.

“For Theresa May to claim a bad deal is better than no deal is stupidity of Trumpian proportions. The reality of this election is that other EU members couldn’t give a hoot how many MPs Theresa May gets.”

May unveiled the document in the Tory target seat of Halifax, West Yorkshire close to the venue for Corbyn’s manifesto launch in Bradford two days before. She returned to themes raised in her first speech after becoming Prime Minister, distancing herself from the “posh boy Toryism” of David Cameron and insisting she wanted to support “just about managing” families and that she would to govern for “mainstream Britain”.

The five challenges she listed for the UK faced were building a strong economy, Brexit, tackling social division and meeting the pressures of an ageing society and fast-changing technology.

David Mundell, who was the only Tory MP elected in Scotland in 2015, travelled to Halifax to take part in the launch event.

He said: “From the Borders to the North Sea, this manifesto delivers for Scotland.”

“It shows that a re-elected Conservative government will continue to ensure that Scotland benefits from its membership of the United Kingdom.”