Government spending watchdog has torpedoed myth of NHS Brexit dividend as demands for new referendum grow

The Office for Budgetary Responsibility says the public finances will be weaker after Brexit

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Tuesday 17 July 2018 16:46 BST
Misleading claims: The now infamous Brexit bus
Misleading claims: The now infamous Brexit bus (Getty)

How many official non partisan bodies is it going to take to stop ministers and MPs lying about a “Brexit dividend” to fund the NHS?

Today the Government’s independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility, established in 2010 to provide authoritative fiscal forecasts, said there will be no Brexit boost to help fund the service when the UK’s EU budget contributions cease.

In common with just about every credible economist out there, the OBR in fact concluded that Brexit will weaken the public finances rather than strengthening them.

As a result, there will be less available not just for health but for anything else you might consider to be important; education, policing, infrastructure investment, defence if that’s your poison.

In the absence of Government action to raise fresh revenue to cover promises such as the £20bn extra pledged to the NHS, which it needs just to maintain services at current levels as the population ages, the OBR's long term projections start to look quite alarming.

But that’s secondary to the core problem: Brexit was sold to the public and won on a big NHS and economic lie.

The other public body to damn the way Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove used figures was the UK Statistics Authority. In a letter to former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Sir David Norgrove, its chair, described the claim of £350m extra for the NHS splashed across the now infamous Brexit bus as “a clear misuse of statistics”.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, his predecessor, had previously called the use of the figure “misleading”.

The Leave campaign carried on regardless.

It was hardly an isolated incident. Want another example? The one I keep recalling was the claim by Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox that securing a trade deal with the EU would be “the easiest thing in the world”.

It sure doesn’t look that way now.

Lies, questionable claims, and the misuse of statistics. It isn't a pretty picture.

We will not be better off as a result of quitting the EU. The UK will emerge from the Conservative Party’s mad project poorer and diminished.

It might even threaten the existence of the NHS. There are some within the service who fear that.

Dr Charles Gallaher a registrar in emergency medicine in south London, and a Leave voter turned Remainer, expressed that concern in a recent article for the Independent.

He said that it was “painfully obvious that the consent given by the public for Brexit was not informed consent”.

Quite. Now the truth is coming out, that in itself ought to be enough to make the case for a second referendum. If you add in the cheating the Electoral Commission has found on the part of the official Leave campaign, and the unofficial Leave.EU, both of which have been fined, it becomes all but unimpeachable

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