IFS hits out at Boris Johnson and claims Brexit will cost UK money

Posted On: 
19th September 2017

Leaving the European Union will cost the UK money rather than free up £350 million a week to spend on the NHS, according to a leading thinktank.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is embroiled in a row over claims Brexit will free up £350m for the NHS
PA Images

Institute for Fiscal Studies deputy director Carl Emmerson spoke out as he took a thinly-veiled swipe at Boris Johnson for reviving the controversial claim, which was a key plank of the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum, in a 4,000-word article for the Daily Telegraph.

In a letter to the Times, Mr Emmerson wrote: “The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts the outlook for the UK economy and the public finances; these forecasts have been adopted by the Chancellor as the Government’s own.

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"They contain an allowance of almost £250 million per week — not £350 million — for funding that could in principle go to the NHS rather than the EU. But this would involve no state support for any other activities, such as subsidies for agriculture, that are at present funded in the UK by the EU.

"The bigger picture is that the forecast health of the public finances was downgraded by £15 billion per year — or almost £300 million per week — as a direct result of the Brexit vote.

"Not only will we not regain control of £350 million weekly as a result of Brexit, we are likely to make a net fiscal loss from it.

"Those are the numbers and forecasts which the Government has adopted. It is perhaps surprising that members of the Government are suggesting rather different figures."

His intervention follows similar criticism from Sir David Norgrove, head of the UK's statistics watchdog, who accused Mr Johnson of a "clear misuse" of official statistics.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson, Tom Brake, said Mr Emmerson’s analysis  “demolishes Boris Johnson's £350m lie".

He said: "His position is completely at odds with the Government's own official forecasts, which show Brexit will mean less money for public services like the NHS. Is Boris really proposing to strip farmers, scientists and UK regions of all their current funding?

"Theresa May must sack him now for contradicting the Government and peddling blatant mistruths."

Former Tory Cabinet minister Ken Clarke this morning said the Prime Minister was too weak to get rid of Mr Johnson.

He said: "Personal publicity and campaigning by the Foreign Secretary is actually just an irrelevant nuisance... 

"Sounding off personally in this way is totally unhelpful and he shouldn't exploit the fact that she [Theresa May] hasn’t got a majority in Parliament and he knows perfectly well that normally a foreign secretary would be sacked instantly for doing that... 

“In any normal circumstances he’d have been sacked the day after."