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Hello, Boris, what happened to your £350m NHS promise?

by Hugo Dixon | 12.09.2016

Boris Johnson is fronting a new Brexit group that is attempting to wriggle out of campaign promises – notably the pledge to give an extra £350 million a week to the NHS. Without this commitment – and an accompanying lie that we send the EU £350 million a week – it is doubtful that we would have voted narrowly for Brexit. All the more reason for the British people to have a vote on whether they really want to quit the EU when Theresa May finally figures out what Brexit means.

Change Britain brings together the three prime movers in Vote Leave – the foreign secretary, Michael Gove and Labour’s Gisela Stuart. The group’s goal seems to be to put steel in May’s spine, to prevent her going soft on Brexit. They take over the prime minister’s mantra – Brexit means Brexit – and give it their own spin.

What’s conspicuous in Change Britain’s 13-point plan is the absence of any mention of the NHS or £350 million. It’s as if Johnson and his comrades-in-arms want to airbrush what they said from the record. But the people will not easily forget that the slogan – “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead” – was emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave battle bus.

This is not the only thing missing from Change Britain’s definition of Brexit. There’s not even a squeak about VAT on fuel bills. During the campaign Johnson, Gove and Stuart said in a statement: “When we Vote Leave, we will be able to scrap this unfair and damaging tax.”

Meanwhile, during the campaign, Vote Leave said: “It will be possible to negotiate a new settlement with the EU, including a UK-EU free trade deal, by the next general election in May 2020.” Now Change Britain says Brexit “will entail an extended process of negotiation with our European Allies”. It looks like the trio have abandoned the 2020 deadline for wrapping things up – a promise they used to counter the argument that Brexit would be a long drawn out process that damaged the economy.

Lies and false promises discredit politics in the eyes of voters, fuelling distrust and apathy. And, yet, Johnson and his comrades talk glibly about bridging the divide between voters and politicians so that the “bond between the people and their government is irreversibly strengthened.” The way to achieve that would be to admit they gave out inaccurate information and made promises they could not deliver, and then apologise.

Hugo Dixon is a director of CommonGround as well as editor-in-chief of InFacts. You can sign up as a supporter here.

One Response to “Hello, Boris, what happened to your £350m NHS promise?”

  • The statement by vote leave you claim is a lie does not use the word promise , or imply it, so you are claiming they lied about a promise they never made. That makes you the only liar here.