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Unconvincing: Theresa May couldn’t make her announcement seem realistic, even under the friendly interrogation of Andrew Marr.

UK prime minister Theresa May has said the National Health Service in England is to receive a funding boost of £20 billion a year by 2023, with money from a so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ and a rise in taxes.

She said: “There will be that Brexit dividend. We will have that sum of money that is available from the European Union.”

There’s only one problem: Like most things she says, her promise is a big, fat lie.

For a start, there is no Brexit dividend.

If you’re a Tory, or a Leave supporter, this may be hard to accept at face value. Let’s have an educated opinion on it – from Paul Johnson, director of the financial think tank, the Institute of Fiscal Studies:

Here he is on the BBC’s Daily Politics, explaining the facts to a reluctant Sarah Smith:

There is no Brexit dividend; Theresa May lied. Are you happy with that?

The Patients’ Association isn’t. It responded, “A giant sticking-plaster is still a sticking-plaster.”

The IFS itself said the NHS needed an increase of more than four per cent per year to modernise; any less would be treading water. It is getting 3.4 per cent.

Here’s another thing: Theresa May has said there must be “efficiencies” alongside the new money. Why? The NHS has already been pared to the bone and there is no more efficiency to be squeezed out of it. In fact, the reason extra funding is required is that her government’s ruthless cuts and introduction of profit-grubbing into the UK’s healthcare system has made it more inefficient.

And she has refused to say which taxes will rise to pay for her mythical spending splurge – possibly because this is the only part of the announcement that might actually come true; the promise of more and better service hides the threat to take more money from a population that has already been squeezed hard over the last eight years.

Mrs May said only, “We will be contributing more as a country.” As a resident of Wales, I find this extremely disturbing as the funding increase is said to be for the NHS in England only.

I see no reason why the other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (what will the DUP think of this?) should pay for funding increases that will not benefit them.

So why make this rash, and completely false, claim?

Simple: Theresa May needs to talk up the benefits of Brexit.

Her EU Withdrawal Bill is returning to the House of Lords for further consideration over the next few days, after Mrs May lied to her colleagues in the Parliamentary Conservative Party in order to prevent a rebellion that would have harmed her as a credible prime minister.

Without any factual benefits to talk up, she has latched onto the biggest lie told during the EU referendum campaign – that, after leaving the European Union, the UK would be able to spend £350 million more, every week, on the NHS.

Her current offer is even more – £394 million a week – but that doesn’t really matter because she is lying.

She has invented a fake boost to the National Health Service in just one part of the UK in the long term, to generate a short-term lift for her government and to hide an increase in taxes – most likely for the poor majority of the population, rather than the obscenely rich minority in whose interest she governs.

It is not a birthday present for the NHS – it is the foretelling of a further theft from us.

This announcement, like Mrs May herself, is nothing but a mealy-mouthed con.


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