We have heard a lot of nonsense in the last week from the Vote Leave campaign about the EU and the NHS.
They claim that if we leave the EU we could spend the £350 million a week we send to Brussels on the NHS.
Firstly the figure is not £350m; the UK’s net contribution is £161m, although even that includes development funding which counts towards the government’s commitment to spend at least 0.7 per cent of our economic output on overseas aid.
And it does not recognise the enormous economic benefit of being in the EU that comes from increased trade, investment, jobs, growth and lower prices, all of which dwarfs our economic contribution.
Secondly, it ignores the fact that countries outside the EU that want to access the single market also have to make contributions to the EU budget. For example, in 2011 Norway’s contribution was £106 per capita, compared with the UK’s £128, yet Norway has no voice in EU decision-making.Thirdly, looking at the bigger picture regarding NHS finances helps to put these figures into context.
The annual budget for NHS England last year was £116 billion, which is £2.25bn per week.
So whatever would be left after a new deal is done with the EU would be a drop in the NHS’s budget ocean.
Fourthly, experts agree leaving the EU would seriously damage the UK economy and this would inevitably reduce the funding for the NHS.
Fifthly, it beggars belief that the spokespeople for Vote Leave can present themselves as enthusiastic supporters of the NHS.
They include Boris Johnson, a keen supporter of real cuts to the NHS budget, privatisation and the break-up of the service, and Matthew Elliott, the Vote Leave chief executive, who was previously head of the Taxpayers Alliance which in 2010 proposed cutting the NHS budget by £50bn and last March advocated charges for NHS services.
This is not just nonsense, it is hypocritical nonsense.