Boris Johnson rebuked for calling for more NHS cash after Brexit

May and Hammond reject foreign secretary’s demands for extra £100m a week for health

Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson. His allies have called for about £5 billion a year extra for the NHS, which is facing the worst flu outbreak in years. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson. His allies have called for about £5 billion a year extra for the NHS, which is facing the worst flu outbreak in years. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

 

Theresa May and her chancellor Philip Hammond have rejected demands from Boris Johnson to set aside an extra £100 million (€114 million) a week for the National Health Service after Britain leaves the EU.

Allies of the British foreign secretary have called for about £5 billion a year extra for the NHS, which is facing the worst flu outbreak in years. During the EU referendum campaign, he and other leading Leavers claimed Britain would reap a £350 million-a-week Brexit dividend, some of which could be used to fund the NHS.

But at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the prime minister said any additional allocation of funds after Brexit would be discussed “at that time”.

Ms May, the prime minister, also reminded her ministers that their discussions “should take place in private”, an implicit reference to newspaper stories about Mr Johnson’s intentions.

Downing Street said no ministers had suggested “any specific number” for extra health spending.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hammond had delivered an even sharper rebuke. “Mr Johnson is the foreign secretary,” the chancellor said. “I gave the health secretary an extra £6 billion at the recent budget and we will look at departmental allocations again at the spending review when that takes place.”

That £6 billion comprises £2.8 billion for the NHS in England, in addition to £3.5 billion of capital funding.

‘Misuse of statistics’

Mr Johnson’s £350 million claim has been dismissed by David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, as an “egregious misuse of statistics”.

Critics have argued that the figure does not account for Britain’s rebate from the EU or EU spending, such as farm subsidies, which the UK government has promised to maintain after Britain leaves the bloc.

The foreign secretary repeated last week that the NHS should be “at the very top of the list” when the UK “takes back control” after Brexit.

Nick Timothy, Ms May’s former co-chief of staff, accused him of “pre-briefing” against his own government on Tuesday.

“Breaching collective responsibility and leaking cabinet discussions are bad enough but part of political life,” he said on Twitter. “But pre-briefing your disagreement with government policy ahead of cabinet?”

Mr Johnson’s intervention comes after complaints from backbench Conservative MPs about Ms May’s domestic agenda and “lack of ambition”.

“Where’s the bold and brave? So far, it’s dull, dull, dull,” Nicholas Soames, the Tory MP, said on Twitter on Monday.

“It really won’t be enough to get people to vote against The Corbini,” he said in reference to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader. “They must have really sound reasons to vote Conservative. We really need to get on with this. #wherestheboldandbravesofaritsdulldulldull.”

Nick Boles, a fellow Tory, warned Ms May last week that it was “time to raise your game” and claimed her government “constantly disappoints”.

“There is a timidity and lack of ambition about Mrs May’s government which means it constantly disappoints,” he said on Twitter. “Time to raise your game, prime minister.”

Ms May’s official spokesman said on Monday: “If you look at action taken by the government in recent months, you can see it is getting on with the job of building a stronger economy and a fairer society that works for everyone.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018