NHS boost: Theresa May doubles down on 'Brexit dividend' claim despite criticism
Theresa May has doubled down on claims a major cash boost for the NHS will partly come from a so-called “Brexit dividend”.
The Prime Minister held firm to her position despite experts insisting no such windfall will exist once the UK quits the EU.
Mrs May confirmed the health service will be handed an extra £20bn a year by 2023 - an increase of some 3.4%.
She said the increase would be funded - at least in part - by the cash Britain would otherwise have sent to Brussels if it were not quitting the bloc.
The claim prompted a swift backlash from respected thinktank the IFS, as well as the Tory chair of the Health Select Committee, who branded it “tosh” which “treats the public like fools”.
But in a speech in London today, Mrs May faced down critics as she said the concept of the “Brexit dividend” was “very simple”.
“We are not going to be sending the vast amount of money every year to the EU that we spend at the moment on the EU as a member of the EU,” she explained.
“That money will be coming back. We will be spending it on our priorities and the NHS is our number one priority.”
Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has dismissed the suggestion that the cash would come from Britain leaving the EU, telling the BBC: “There isn’t a Brexit dividend.”
He argued the forecast downturn in the economy as a result of Brexit, the so-called 'divorce bill' and other payments to maintain some EU functions meant any extra money had already been spent.
Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston meanwhile blasted the Prime Minister for peddling the claims of a post-Brexit boost - which were a lynchpin of the Leave campaign at the EU referendum.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister admitted that taxpayers will also be forced to cough up for the NHS cash boost.
“As a country we will need to contribute a bit more,” she said.
“Taxpayers will need to contribute a bit more but we will do that in a fair and balanced way and we want to listen to people about how we do that.”
Mrs May said Chancellor Philip Hammond would be setting out more detail about the plans in his spending review later in the year.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell asked: "Is this coming from borrowing? What are the tax rises? Where is this Brexit dividend that no-one believes at all? It's all those questions that need to be answered."
Elsewhere, Mrs May noted that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would also see increases in their funding as the NHS boost will trigger an uplift under the Barnett formula.
“While it is up to the devolved administrations to spend the money as they see fit, I believe everyone in the UK should benefit from this extra funding for the NHS,” she said.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth: "The money announced today by the Prime Minister is not enough to save our NHS after eight years of Conservative austerity.
"Although she confirmed the current situation is not sustainable, today’s figures represent little more than a standstill in funding, according to experts.
"People are waiting longer and in pain because of Tory cuts to the NHS. The Prime Minister couldn’t say today when this will improve and waiting lists will come down.
"She also confirmed that social care, capital spending and public health will not see any increase as a result of today’s announcement.
"If the Conservatives do manage to publish the detail of their insufficient 3.4% increase, then Labour's fully costed plans to raise taxes for the top 5% and big business will top up NHS spending growth to around the 5% which is needed."