Boris: Yes, we will take back £350m from EU for NHS
Foreign Secretary sets out grand vision for country after Brexit Chancellor must cut taxes and regulation to boost economy Staying in single market and customs union would be mockery
BORIS JOHNSON today sets out a grand vision of Britain’s “glorious” post-brexit future as a low-tax, low regulation economy paying nothing to the EU for access to the single market.
In a 4,000-word article in today’s
Daily Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary restates a key demand of the Leave campaign – that the £350 million a week currently sent to Brussels should be redirected to fund the NHS.
He says that Britain should not continue to make payments to the EU after Brexit and that ongoing membership of the European single market and customs union would make a “complete mockery” of the referendum.
Mr Johnson makes no reference to any transition period after 2019 and makes repeated reference to how EU bureaucracy is a drag on Britain’s economic performance.
His blueprint differs markedly from that of Philip Hammond and other Cabinet ministers, who have stressed the need to remain close to the single market and pay money to maintain access.
It comes less than a week before Theresa May delivers a pivotal Brexit speech in Florence, and effectively amounts to an ultimatum to the Prime Minister on what she is expected to say.
It is understood that the Foreign Secretary had hoped to make a speech about Brexit but has not had the opportunity. Whitehall sources suggested that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were unaware of Mr Johnson’s article.
His Brexit blueprint will send shockwaves through the Tory ranks and will spark speculation that Mr Johnson – who sources say supports the Prime Minister and her agenda – may still harbour leadership ambitions, as the Conservative Party prepares to meet at its annual conference next month.
In his passionately patriotic article, he insists that Britain can be “the greatest country on Earth” and rounds on so-called Remoaners “who think we are going to bottle it”.
The most striking inclusion in his article is the repetition of his claim that Britain will be £350 million a week better off after leaving the EU and that the money could be spent on the NHS. The claim appeared on the side of the Leave campaign bus during last year’s referendum campaign and has been bitterly disputed by Remainers ever since.
However, Mr Johnson says: “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million a week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make the most of new technology.”
Mr Johnson is also dismissive of the suggestion that Britain should pay to access the single market during the transition period or beyond, saying: “We would not expect to pay for access to their markets any more than they would expect to pay for access to ours.”
He deploys soaring rhetoric in the tub-thumping article to insist that Britain “will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily”, while slapping down opponents of Brexit who are “woefully underestimating this country” and think Brexit “isn’t going to happen”.
The Foreign Secretary also settles old scores by attacking those who tried to prevent the Leave vote, such as “the BBC, Barack Obama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the CBI [Confederation
of British Industry], every major political party and much of the media”.
Under Mr Johnson’s blueprint, leaving the EU must “logically entail” leaving the single market, the customs union and the European Court of Justice. He says Britain will “keep environmental and social protections that are fair and wise”, but will ditch EU regulations, which cost between 4 and 7 per cent of GDP. Mr Johnson says: “We should seize the opportunity of Brexit to reform our tax system”, pointing out that the Bank of England’s chief economist said in 2015 that the system is “skewed” and discourages investment.
He also suggests that Britain should think about taxing foreign buyers of British property to prevent them pushing house prices up. Another way of tackling the housing crisis, he says, would be to simplify planning laws and environmental impact assessments.
He singles out the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, and the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for praise, but makes no mention of the Brexit Secretary, David Davis.
On immigration, he says businesses should be able to access the skills they need but “will no longer be able to use immigration as an excuse not to invest in the young people of this country”. He also wants a Britain where “fat cat” bosses are not rewarded for failure.
On trade, Britain will be able to “get on and do free trade deals” , particularly with the Commonwealth, rather than looking to the EU for ways to expand.
His view challenges Mr Hammond’s preference for a lengthy transition.
Mr Johnson sees Brexit as a “chance to catch the wave of new technology, and to put Britain in the lead”. As automated vehicles take over the car market, the car industry will transform itself in Britain, while the protectionist EU will try to hold back the revolution.
He also accuses Jeremy Corbyn of “chickening out” of Brexit with his party’s preference for remaining in the single market and customs union, or nearest equivalent. “He would make a complete mockery of Brexit,” he writes, “and turn an opportunity into a national humiliation.”