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Brexiteers’ funding promise worthless, it expires in 2020

by Jack Schickler | 14.06.2016

Vote Leave’s commitment to maintain EU spending on British farms, researchers and regions has received wide coverage. Less attention is paid to the fact that the promise is next to worthless.

The open letter, from Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, only commits to keep funding levels “until 2020”. That implies at most an extra year or two of funding, and probably not even that.

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Even Gove admits that, if we vote to leave, we would probably still be in the EU in 2020 – implying we keep getting funds from the EU budget until then. The very earliest we could leave – given the two-year expiry period set out in Article 50 of the EU Treaty – is 2018. Negotiating an exit deal on made-to-measure terms, as Johnson has called for, would almost certainly take longer.

After then, post-Brexit austerity could spell bad news for the British farmers, scientists and others who between them currently get £5.8 billion a year in EU funds. The damage to our economy from leaving the single market would mean a fiscal hole in 2020 estimated at £20-40 billion by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, “more than enough to wipe out the planned surplus”. This would be met through higher taxes, lower spending, or a higher deficit. Given Leavers have already made costly promises to spend more on healthcare and cut VAT on fuel, other public spending seems set for the chop.

Edited by Hugo Dixon