Day one of the official campaign, and Vote Leave has decided to fight for the NHS. The campaign called for our £10.6 billion Brussels contribution to go on the health service – and campaign Chair Gisela Stuart appeared on the Today Programme to make the case to a sceptical John Humphrys.
“What I’m going tell you are two facts” Stuart said. “Every week we send £350 million to Brussels”, and the NHS needs “extra cash”. She then drew the conclusion that our EU payments would be better spent on doctors, nurses and hospitals.
Stuart briefly raised hopes that InFacts’ appeal for Vote Leave to focus on facts had met with early success, only to dash them upon an old Brexiteer canard. The UK does not send £350 million a week, or a net £10.6 billion a year, to the EU.
Stuart acknowledged the EU sends money back to the UK, but Vote Leave has repeatedly argued that the EU tells us how to spend that money, which precludes it going on our priorities – things like the NHS.
The problem is that the EU’s priorities also appear to be Vote Leave’s priorities. The EU subsidises farmers and Vote Leave wants to maintain this spending. The EU funds our research and universities. Vote Leave wants to increase funding for science.
That leaves only one other substantial category of EU money to raid: EU funds for UK regions, including funding for poor and disadvantaged regions. Perhaps Vote Leave intend to fund the NHS by diverting funds currently destined for Wales and Northern Ireland.
All this assumes that leaving the EU would actually save money for the government. The economic facts suggest otherwise. If we left, we wouldn’t have extra money to spend on the NHS; the economic turmoil that would follow a Brexit would more than likely mean we’d have less to spend, not more.
In other words, the link between our payments to Brussels and the spending squeeze facing the government is fictional. Just as EU migrants subsidise our elderly patients, staff our hospitals, and run our “leave” campaign – Stuart moved to the UK from Germany in 1974, after we joined the European Community – the funds we pay to the EU buy us access to the Single Market, which provides the strong economy and tax revenues a healthy NHS needs.
Contacted for comment, press officers for the official out campaign Vote Leave said: “Oh you’re from InFacts? We don’t really – we don’t talk to you”, before hanging up.
Edited by Geert Linnebank