Leave campaigners were wrong to claim on the side of a Brexit campaign bus that the U.K. sends £350 million a week to Brussels because the true cost of EU membership is actually much higher, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the Guardian.
“There was an error on the side of the bus,” Johnson said in an interview published today. “We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”
Johnson said gross payments to the EU have continued to rise and will reach £438 million a week by the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
Brexiteers promised before the 2016 EU referendum that leaving the bloc would provide the U.K. with extra money for the NHS — the discredited £350 million-a-week claim on the side of the Leave campaign bus.
“As and when the cash becomes available — and it won’t until we leave [the EU] — the NHS should be at the very top of the list,” Johnson said, adding that health funding is a “huge priority for the British people.”
Pressure on the NHS this winter has led to hospitals postponing non-urgent operations in January. Some experts say Brexit could mean less money for the ailing service rather than more.
Remainer and Labour Party MP Alison McGovern responded to Johnson’s interview in a written statement, saying: “Boris’s Cabinet cheerleading for leaving the single market and the customs union will lead to less money — not more — for public services like our NHS.”