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Why can’t Theresa May be honest about Brexit?

by Hugo Dixon | 18.06.2018

The prime minister’s credibility is in tatters after she dishonestly promised to pay for an increase in NHS spending partly via a “Brexit dividend” that doesn’t exist. That lie followed hard on the heels of her double-crossing Tory MPs, to whom she had promised a “meaningful vote” at the end of the Brexit talks.

Theresa May has gone full Boris on the NHS. The boss of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies stated simply: “There is no Brexit dividend”. The Times splash is headlined: “Black hole in May’s cash plan for NHS”; the Metro’s is “Magic Money Theresa”.

Meanwhile, the Times editorial called talk of a Brexit dividend “as mendacious as the lie on the big red bus”. And the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire wrote: “Theresa May squanders remains of threadbare credibility with barefaced NHS Brexit ‘dividend’ lie.”

It’s not as if the prime minister’s pro-Brexit media allies are happy either. The Telegraph splash warns of a “Stealth tax to pay for NHS boost”. The Sun sounds the alarm about “Stealth tax fury”, saying: “Theresa May was last night accused of breaking the Tory manifesto after signalling that taxes will rise to fund a £20 billion-a-year bonanza for the NHS.”

A quick recap on why there is no Brexit dividend:

  • We’re giving the EU a £39bn divorce payment
  • We’ll pay even more in the “backstop” period the prime minister wants after we quit
  • We’ll then pay the EU billions more each year to access its programmes
  • Brexit will weaken public finances by £15 billion a year because it will damage the economy – that’s based on the government’s own figures.

Extra money for the NHS will come from higher tax rates not a Brexit dividend.

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So the prime minister is being dishonest twice: first by pretending that a Brexit bonanza exists when it doesn’t; second by breaking her manifesto pledge not to raise taxes.

All this from somebody who famously promised to be “straight” with the people about Brexit in her Mansion House speech.

As Brexit takes its toll, dishonesty is becoming a pattern for the prime minister. Last week she went back on her word to Dominic Grieve to accept the thrust of his amendment ensuring Parliament will get a meaningful vote. She neutered the text, seemingly after pressure from hardline Brexiters.

The House of Lords will have a chance to fix the problem later today. But the real battle will come on Wednesday when the House of Commons considers the matter again. Given that MPs can no longer take the prime minister at her word, it is vital that strong and clear language is written down in law.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

10 Responses to “Why can’t Theresa May be honest about Brexit?”

  • The woman never had any principles.

    She lied about the man who had a cat who couldn’t be deported due to his ‘right to a family life.’ Her lead civil servant had to resign at the Home Office when she said she wasn’t aware that border checks had been stopped to lessen the queues at the border, he then won his tribunal case. She claimed to vote for REMAIN and then took the first opportunity to lead us out of Europe in a complete-break Brexit after she unexpectedly got the chance to be PM. She called an election when she thought she could ride the xenophobic wave to glory and got her eye wiped for it. Didn’t stop her, though. She stabs moderate Tories in the back in an attempt to stay on top of the heap – I hope Grieve and Co. manage to re-print her P45 for her later this week.

    It seems when she isn’t running through fields of golden wheat, she is buying haute-couture clothing, making up lies about the propaganda inspired imaginary ‘brexit-dividend’ being used on the NHS, or stabbing others in the back out of self-interest.

    How was she any different from Trump again?

  • Why can’t Theresa May be honest about Brexit?

    Simply because there is no good news. There is not one single benefit of leaving. If she tells the truth she will be accused of being a closet remoaner. Either she knows it will be a disaster and doesn’t care OR she knows it will be a disaster and has a cunning plan.

  • How on earth can anyone allege that the UK has received no financial benefit whatsoever from EU membership. Are they really saying that all the frictionless trade, the investment and jobs brought to the UK etc etc are worth zilch? Why don’t the TV interviewers ask “Do you think successive governments for many decades including Thatcher’s Conservatives have been making all these contributions to the EU budget for no purpose whatsoever other than generosity to our continental brethren?” The obvious truth is that all EU members gain financial benefit from the enormous partnership that the EU represents.

  • IMHO, May is under pressure from her husband and his very wealthy supporters who are determined to avoid the new EU laws on Anti Tax Avoidance. She does whatever she is told to do.
    No original thought, no plan, no sense, she plans the continue to obfuscate until she declares that we will leave with no deal in March. She will incorrectly blame EU intransigence and Britain will have a very bad reputation in Europe.
    Brexit will be an unmitigated disaster of unheard of proportions, In one stroke, destruction of the UK.

  • Boris has control. He is drafting in the world famous top negotiator, Donal J Ducke, to take over the negotiations from David Davis. Don’t panic, it will all be alright on the night, after all we are British and we won the Battle of Britain. (We did have a bit of help from New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, Poland, France and Czechoslovakia, but that doesn’t really count.) So good on yer Boris, get the red bus out again and show Johnny Foreigner where to get off.

  • I doubt even on the narrowest definition, there will be a Brexit dividend on reduced public expenditure, because of three offsetting expenditures not included in the above list:
    (1) The loss of economies of scale when the UK has to replicate the various EU agencies such as the EMA at its own expense instead of sharing them with the other 27 EU member states, not to mention doing our own Galileo, which TM touched on in her interview with Andrew Marr.
    (2) The extra outlay on border administration like customs officials.
    (3) The commitments made to replace EU funding in areas such as agriculture for at least some adjustment period.

  • Why are some countries prepared to put more into the EU budget than they get out? It’s not just for reasons of solidarity with poor neighbours and it’s not because they are stupid or being ripped off by the other smaller, weaker countries. It’s for very pragmatic reasons. The poorer countries benefit from extra funding to improve their infrastructure and improve the standard of living of their citizens. Improving transport infrastructure makes it cheaper to send goods to and fro, which everyone benefits from. Improving the standard of living of their people means that they have more money to spend on our stuff. Poor people won’t buy much from us.

    Consider a shop in the posh middle of a town. You’re surrounded by rich people while further out there are the slums and run down areas. You want to get more people to visit your shop, but the roads to the poorer areas are in bad repair and public transport is practically nonexistent. In any case, the people who live in those areas can’t afford to buy your stuff.

    So you get together with the other businessess and come up with a plan to get the local Council to invest in better transport to the poorer areas and to invest in urban renewal and creating more jobs there. The council agrees but says that they will have to increase business rates a bit to cover the costs. What do you do? Do you accept, anticipating the benefits of more customers? In addition, as the rundown areas improve, then they will contribute more to Council tax so you might end up with a lower tax bill after a few years.

    Or do you decide to reject that idea and look at getting customers from towns far away, knowing that you’ll have to compete with their own shops and other tow

  • Because the vicars daughter hasn’t an honest bone inher body. She’s tasted power and like a vampirist with blood,she’ll stop at nothing to get her fix.

  • This is just another Tory false promise. The NHS will be handed over to coroporate America in the proposed FTA – can we really see the disgraced former Minister Fox fighting for the NHS (even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t) when the US gives him the ultimatum, the NHS or the deal is off. The Tories can make these wild promises in full knowledge they won’t have to deliver. The NHS, like the UK’s parliamentary democracy, will be another victim of brexit.