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May’s BBC grilling misses key point: Brexit and the economy

by Hugo Dixon | 23.05.2017

Andrew Neil’s interview of Theresa May on the BBC on Monday put the prime minister on the back foot about her so-called dementia tax. But he failed to ask one key question: how can pulling out of the single market and threatening to quit the EU without any deal at all create the strong economy she promises?

Without a strong economy, May’s other promises will come to nought. We won’t have money to pay for social care or the NHS. We won’t be able to cut taxes. And we won’t be able to reduce the budget deficit.

A failure to create a strong economy would add to May’s litany of broken promises and flip-flopping: her repeated pledges to cut net migration to the tens of thousands a year; her u-turn on the dementia tax; her commitment not to call a snap election. And she has the cheek to say this election is about trust.

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The prime minister may now be pledging a cap on how much old people will have to pay if they can’t look after themselves. But she couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal the size of that cap. One can see why. She hasn’t a clue how bad the public finances will be after she drives through her destructive Brexit.

May is saying she will give an extra £8 billion to the NHS. But again and again, she refused to tell Neil where the money was coming from. That’s hardly surprising. She doesn’t know. If Brexit blows up, there won’t be money for the NHS.

The prime minister said she wants to cut taxes and eliminate the deficit. Who wouldn’t? But she hasn’t ruled out putting up income tax and national insurance. And the promise to eliminate the deficit – which the Tories originally said would occur in 2015 – has been pushed out to 2025. Of course. She doesn’t know that she can cut it. If she really crashes out of the EU with no deal, the deficit may go up not down.

May told Neil, again and again, that fundamental to building a strong economy was “getting the Brexit negotiations right”. In explaining why her manifesto didn’t cost its promises, May told the BBC interviewer that the Conservatives’ “economic credibility was not in doubt”. That’s just false. Her economic credibility is in doubt precisely because it looks like she’s going to get the Brexit negotiations wrong.

Edited by Rachel Franklin

6 Responses to “May’s BBC grilling misses key point: Brexit and the economy”

  • That is a key point. If the Government walks away with no negotiated deal, which many, naively, from the Brexit lobby seem to be egging her on to do, there is a massive question mark about how all the other spending commitments could be funded. Not least there would be an ominous cloud hanging over NHS funding, the fraudulent claim of an extra £350 a week from Boris Johnson, having long been exposed. So what happens then? If we go for a low tax, Singapore-style “offshore” economy, that’s not going to leave alot of money left over for things like social welfare and health. Do we go for a more American style NHS? I think the electorate have a right to know before casting their votes.

  • There is no point in asking that question.
    I tried to ask which argument changed Remainers to Brexiters. I was given the reply that they gave us the referendum.
    I still have not heard which argument changed their minds.

    • The thing is that too many Remain supporters (Re-leavers) would rather accept the result of a high-turnout referendum, although a version to their tailoring, of which there are several, as leaving the EU takes many forms, than try and prevent it altogether to prevent further alienating the people that voted it, whose concerns have never adequately been listened to, and whose conditions are unlikely to be improved. The Tories, always a government for themselves and not their voters, have never really understood the EU for anything other than money, and, not just due to the tabs, ordinary people have got a negative impression on the EU, due to gains of Eurosceptic right in the last decade, and the financial crisis in the Mediterranean and Ireland, although only Greece and Italy have had euroscpticism in parliament. I am desperate for Uk to remain in the EU, but sometimes, letting go does less damage than holding on, although this craven government will do more damage itself, and must be pressured, because they can bow to it. This is why my heart is a remainer and my head a re-leaver. However, there is no point in this stupid process occurring unless the EU reforms because I want it stronger than ever, and it has recovered well.

  • Neil asked May to square her comments that a bad deal would bring “dire” economic consequences and that a “no deal remained better than a bad deal”. It’s a good question and worth pursuing

  • Anyone here ever imagine what EU citizens might think in the case we breezily came back to Brussels telling them that after all the U.K. had second thoughts on the subject and came to the conclusion that the Brexit advantages didn’t weigh up against de disadvantages? So can we have our seats at the table back please? Quite against the normally polite attitude in Germany they refer to Brexit Brits as Inselaffen, island apes. This country has cost Europe a lot already and they got a lot of silly abuse from across the North Sea. It looks like they also don’t really care that much about economical cliff dives from those white cliffs any longer.

  • Theresa May says she will give the NHS £8bn extra, but the Bexitters, of whom she is one promised £18bn! Whom shall we believe?