Health, immigration and economy


So much for all those promises. Leading politicians in the campaign to withdraw the UK from the European Union are quickly backtracking on a number of promises, in particular extra money for healthcare.

The retirement has prompted howls of outrage, from politicians who wanted Britain to stay in the EU as well as some Leave voters who say they feel “cheated”.

Note: If you’re in North America, go here to watch CNN’s live Brexit coverage.

Here are three promises falling apart days after the historic Brexit vote:

Campaign promise 1: We will donate EU money to the National Health Service

The official Vote Leave campaign claimed EU membership was costing the UK £350m a week, “enough to build a brand new hospital with full staff…every week”.

The slogan was painted on the side of the bright red campaign bus. Pro-Brexit politicians have continued to make the claim, despite being repeatedly reprimanded by the independent statistics watchdog for misleading voters.

Iain Duncan Smith, a figurehead for Vote Leave, told the BBC the campaign was not saying ‘all’ would go to the NHS, but ‘a significant part’ would.

Related: The Brexit hangover: 3 huge headaches facing the UK

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party and Brexit campaigner, said suggesting that money sent to the EU could be spent on health services in the future was a mistake.

” No I can not [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim. I think that’s one of the mistakes the Leave campaign made,” he told British television after the vote.

About half of the money Britain gives to the EU is returned to the country through grants to farmers, grants for research and funding for infrastructure. And this money is already committed.

Brexiteers have told farmers in Britain and poor areas like Cornwall they will not lose financially once those funds are cut. They have made similar pledges to support UK universities and scientists – the second biggest recipients of EU research grants.

Cornwall, in the southwest of England, has voted to leave the EU. Local officials are already asking the government for confirmation that the county won’t be worse off as a result.

Campaign promise 2: We will take control of the UK’s borders

During the campaign, Brexiteers attacked the UK government for missing its target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands (it was 333,000 last year), saying it was only by leaving EU that Britain could control immigration.

Many voters say they backed Brexit because they expected lower immigration.

Leave campaigner and lawmaker Nigel Evans told BBC radio there had been “some misunderstanding” about the Leave campaign’s stance on cutting immigration.

Asked if the number of people entering the country would drop significantly, Evans said a new Australian-style points system for EU migrants meant the UK would be able to control immigration. – but he didn’t say he would fall.

Brexit voters have another problem: Negotiations over the terms of Britain’s exit have not even begun. The UK may need to keep its borders open to EU workers if it wants to trade freely with the rest of Europe — an articulate point of view on Friday by Daniel Hannan, another spokesperson for the Leave campaign.

“It doesn’t matter what you said, Mr Hannan. We just voted to stop mass immigration. Now turn yourself in for us,” Vote Leave Derbyshire tweeted.

Boris Johnson, a leading Leave campaigner and favorite to be the next prime minister, wrote on Sunday that British citizens will still have access to the EU’s single market.

“Britons will still be able to go to work in the EU, live, travel, study, buy a house and settle down,” he wrote for the Telegraph.

The problem, of course, is that such continued freedom of movement for Britons will require freedom of movement for Europeans.

Campaign promise #3: The economy will be fine

The UK government and just about every independent forecaster, including the International Monetary Fund, have said a Brexit vote would trigger financial and economic turmoil.

These warnings were dubbed “Project Fear” by Brexiteers, who said the UK would thrive outside the EU.

Consider this: Since the results of the vote were known early on Friday, the pound has crashed 12% against the US dollar to its lowest level in decades, UK bank stocks have slumped and forecasts of growth in the British economy have been wiped out.

Companies suspend investments and warn of falling profits. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said on Monday the government’s economy and finances would suffer, but an emergency budget would not take place until a new prime minister was chosen in October.

Related: London banks will pay Brexit ‘price’

Companies say they can’t wait that long. Banks are already considering moving their staff out of London.

“What we need is a plan,” said CBI chief executive Carolyn Fairbairn. “The government must act urgently to minimize the uncertainties that affect investment decisions and slow job creation.”

Analysts say the contrast between promises and results will cause huge headaches for the new prime minister.

“He (or she) won’t be able to deliver on Brexiteers’ promises of saving £350m by leaving the EU, benefiting from favorable trade deals, ‘taking control’ of immigration while avoiding everything significant economic setback at the same time,” writes Holger Schmieding at Berenberg Bank.

CNNMoney (London) First published June 27, 2016: 7:03 a.m. ET


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