Saturday, 25 June 2016

A promise to pay £350m/week to the NHS?

I received an e-mail today about an 38 Degrees Petition.  You see, I'm on the mailing list because I've supported and promoted a number of causes through 38 Degrees over the years. I don't support all of the petitions I receive emails about, some I just don't feel strongly enough about or I consider inappropriate for me to comment on.

Today's e-mail is the first which I have reacted to in a very negative way.  Perhaps it is the rawness of the last two days and it's touched a nerve but I can't remain silent on it.

The petition is about claims made by the Leave EU campaign regarding changing spending priorities following EU exit - in particular that the £350m/week paid by Britain to the EU could fund the NHS.

The petition: 38 Degrees Petition

I'm sorry but anybody who actually believed that claim is naive at best or, less charitably, plain stupid. And THAT is the reason we are in this mess. The £350m "could" be spent on the NHS, that could be implied by the wording on the big red bus.  But the fallacy of the £350m was exposed long before the referendum, never mind how it could be spent. For example the £90m/week rebate which we receive and which is included in current public spending is included in the £350m figure.

The vote on Thursday wasn't for a government standing on a manifesto. Not for anyone that could be held to account (in five years time at the next election). The majority of those in parliament opposed leaving and the deceitful claims made. They were not elected on a mandate to spend an additional £350m per week on the NHS therefore they cannot be held to account for not doing it.

We can only spend this money on the NHS if we choose not to fund activities currently funded from EU sources when they stop and from the current rebate and instead divert the money to the NHS.

We could do it. But what would be the consequences? European regional development funding for deprived and disadvantaged communities would be diverted to the NHS.  Voices in Cornwall are already demanding EU support is replaced by British Government support during our exit from the EU.  Education and research programmes in colleges and universities would be cancelled to fund the NHS. Support for farmers will be diverted to the NHS. They will go under and/or food prices will rocket if subsidies are withdrawn. 

And we would choose not to continue paying money, as Norway and Switzerland do, to the EU budget to allow access for trade.  Instead our exporters would pay crippling tariffs to continue trading in Europe (and elsewhere). Many businesses would need to cut wages to remain competitive.

As the economy stagnates, and we struggle to feed ourselves we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we have a gold-plated NHS that we can turn to when it all becomes too much. And it would be in a perfect condition for the Tories to privatise.


Useful Links:

BBC Reality Check, 15 April 2016: Would Brexit mean extra £350m a week for NHS? 
Nigel Farage MP, clarifying his position on NHS funding: Nigel Farage on GMB following Brexit

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