Theresa May shamelessly takes up discredited Leave campaign slogan

Most of my memories of the Leave campaign involve the blatant lies it told. 77 million Turks, we were told, would pretty much be here the day after we voted Remain, according to their literature. And the biggest lie of all was emblazoned on the side of a bus. £350 million a week for the NHS.

It was the thought of more money for our beleaguered NHS that prompted many people to vote Leave, something confirmed by Vote Leave’s director, Dominic Cummings.

Within hours of the referendum result, that pledge was in tatters. Nigel Farage distanced himself from it on the morning of that awful day after the referendum.

So, as her Government disintegrates into chaos and farce over its Brexit plans, and as we realise that there is no way we can get a decent solution to the Irish Border problem and as the Government’s own officials says that if we leave without a deal, we’ll run out of food and medicine in a fortnight, Theresa May has done the dead cat thing with a funding pledge for the NHS.

She says that 20 billion a year will come from a Brexit dividend. That is a Brexit Dividend that you spell “m-a-g-i-c m-o-n-e-y t-r-e-e.” It simply does not exist. The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said earlier this year:

However the impact of Brexit on the wider economy is likely to have a greater impact than the amount the UK will get back from reduced EU contributions. Brexit represents a fundamental shake-up of the UK’s relationship with our largest trade partner. If, as most economists expect, this reduces economic growth over the medium to long term, it will almost certainly outweigh the reduction in our EU contributions; a reduction in GDP of just 1% translates to a fall in tax revenue of more than £8 billion.

My first instinct on seeing the headlines this morning was to call out the bovine scatology:

During the referendum, the UK Statistics Authority debunked the nonsense £350 million a week for the NHS claim. Now Tom Brake has called on the body to state whether they think a Brexit Dividend is anything other than a figment of the Prime Minister’s imagination:

I am seeking a clear statement from the UKSA to settle, once and for all, the vexed question of whether there is any such thing as a so-called Brexit dividend.

If, as the IFS has done, UKSA makes it clear the Brexit dividend is just a figment of the Brexiters’ hyperactive imaginations, then from the PM down, they will have to stop making these misleading and false claims.

Expert after expert have predicted that Brexit will cost the economy rather than free up loads of cash for public services. That is why the Lib Dems are fighting for a final say on the deal and an Exit from Brexit.

Norman Lamb and Judith Jolly slammed the plans as inadequate. Norman, a former health minister, said:

The proposed increase falls well shot of what the IFS and others say is necessary. It will condemn the NHS and patients to a very uncertain and dangerous future. It means that we won’t achieve the vital goal of equality for those with mental ill health and we will continue to fall short of international comparisons on cancer survival rates. It’s an inadequate sticking plaster.

The IFS said that increases of close to 4% are needed for social care as well as a funding boost for the NHS. Yet Theresa May had nothing to say on this vital issue. She has left a gaping wound.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party putting forward an immediate 1p increase in income tax – which would raise an additional £6bn a year. But crucially, the expert panel I set up recommended a dedicated NHS and Care Tax which could be used to raise the amount that experts say the NHS and social care need. That is what the Government should have done.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly added:

This proposed investment in the NHS is far more about repairing the Tory image than it is about repairing the NHS.

But given the untold damage that Brexit will cause the UK economy, these plans don’t add up. The OBR and the Bank of England have already warned that any Brexit dividend will be dwarfed by the economic disaster that is Brexit.

So from which money tree will Theresa May fund these plans? The truth cannot be sidestepped. She must be upfront with the public.

Theresa May is weaponising the NHS to distract from her dreadful management of Brexit. She can’t be allowed to get away with it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • No, she can’t but I doubt it was her idea.

    First, accept that she has now created a very strong idea in people’s minds: No Brexit = No money for the NHS.

    Arguments about whether or not there is, or is not, a Brexit dividend, or whether it is, or is not, enough to deal with the NHS’s problems are simply too complex to counteract that idea.

    Keep it simple. Work with what people already believe about conservatives, namely: they’d sell their own granny for a profit.

    In my opinion, the conservatives are planning to tax us more to create more profit for the American corporations they will sell the NHS to after Brexit.

  • And when Mrs May was challenged on why she had given Chope a knighthood she was completely flustered and unable to give an adequate reason.

  • They will claim seven impossible miracles for Brexit before breakfast; after all you have to have blind faith or faries will die. As to Chope she could at least have been honest and said “It was Buggins turn”.

  • William Fowler 18th Jun '18 - 7:22am

    Makes me think Mrs May is expecting an election soon, this is no worse than opposition canvassers running around knocking on doors and telling votes that the Conservatives want to close down the NHS or steal their house to pay for care. But it’s a good message for Tory brexiteers at a time when they are fuming at the slow progress.

    Mrs May’s liking for her role as PM should not be underestimated and expect there is a list of things to do to take the bite out of Labour’s attack dogs. Still plenty of bloat in non-frontline govn to cut out so don’t really see the funding problem, Spreadsheet Phil has already said more for the NHS means less spending in other depts. Behind the scenes there is a lot of quiet restructuring going on that tends to get known about only after it is too late to do anything about it.

    Agreed, the knighthood question had her like a deer in headlights, she obviously hasn’t been on a training course, unlike the Labour front bench, which might even be endearing in its way. Oddly, her face seems to have a hint of the Queen about it!

  • @William

    Yes, in more usual times the “Labour attack dogs” would take up the granny being sold for a profit rebuttal. I’m not sure if you have noticed that on this occasion they have not. Why? Because No Deal = No money for the NHS is in Corbyn’s interests as much as May’s.

    If this party wants to stand up for remainers, it really will have to get its hands a little dirty.

    The reality is that with all the talk of the customs arrangements and keeping an open border in Ireland, people seem to have become distracted.

    Goods are transported by people. Open borders in Ireland means freedom of movement for people from all EU members states throughout the U.K. Both main parties have committed to the end of freedom of movement for people.
    Unless the meaningful vote rebellion is successful, which is doubtful, hard Brexit is on its way.

    Time to wake up, smell the coffee and stop being quite so nice and honourable.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jun '18 - 9:14am

    “The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies ”

    The same IFS who have got their forecasting wrong so many times? Like failing to see the GFC coming and consistently overestimating the positive results of austerity economics.

    The same IFS who Nick Clegg accused of applying ‘distorted nonsense’ ? Although, I think he was saying the right thing but for the wrong reasons.

  • @David Raw… And the relevance/usefulness of your remark to 2018, to Brexit, to TM cynically linking extra NHS cash for England (only) with Brexit… is what, exactly?

  • @Cassie

    Quite. The Lib Dem’s as a minor partner in a coalition are only ever going to be able to soften the actions of larger coalition partners. To expect otherwise is unrealistic, and I expect the main aim of that comment is to draw attention from the meatier part of my contribution.

    Distraction is a very useful tool.

  • If we want to remain in the single market, then we will have to accept the decisions of the political eu, that I think is the Norway option, at least as far as trade is concerned; it seems the best we can hope for.

  • Teresa Wilson 18th Jun '18 - 8:06pm

    I strongly suspect the purpose of the original lie on the bus (that we sent £350 million to Brussels each week) was deliberate. Remainers (including myself) spent too much time debunking it, thus concentrating attention on the fact that a lot of money was going to Brussels, and not enough pointing out the obvious flaws in the argument. I wonder if this is comparable in some way?

  • Cassie and Lynn N. Relevance? Just pointing out the obvious truth demonstrated in the ballot box – and the money isn’t just for England. May has announced Scotland would be compensated under the Barnett formula so try to keep up.

    As for Councillor Shaw and unpleasantness – I bow to a right wing past master who misrepresents my comments about Appleby. End of.

  • William Fowler 19th Jun '18 - 7:24am

    Surely the LibDems should respond with the Exit-from-Brexit tax revenue bonus, say 20b a year for the NHS rather than over five years??

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