The health service must be given the £350m a week it was promised by the leave campaign, the leading Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has said.
The controversial pledge, which was plastered on the side of the Vote Leave bus during the European Union membership referendum, was immediately abandoned after the country voted in favour of leaving the bloc last year.
But Mr Rees-Mogg (inset) has now called on the Treasury to make the money available to the health service once Britain leaves the EU on the grounds a promise was made to the electorate.
“Although I did not want the £350m figure to be used [during the referendum] it was used and the electors believed the promise was made,” the MP for North East Somerset said at an Economists for Free Trade event in London.
“Politicians cannot and should not hide behind the small print like some disreputable businesses do, but must recognise the commitment was accepted in broad terms, not in petty detail. We promised £350m to the NHS, so we must deliver it.”
His comments come just a week after the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, made a similar demand from the Government. Mr Stevens took the unusual step of making a direct plea to ministers for additional funding, saying the public wanted to see the promise honoured. The £350m-a-week figure became one of the most contentious issues during the EU referendum campaign and was held by many remain supporters to have been an unethical attempt to mislead voters. It even drew criticism from the UK Statistics Authority and Institute for Fiscal Studies as inaccurate.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who has been tipped as a potential leadership contender for the Tory party, said the extra funds would amount to £18.2bn a year.
But Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South and a supporter of Open Britain, said Brexit was being “hijacked by ideological extremists like Jacob Rees-Mogg whose agenda is at odds with that of the vast majority of the British people”.
Ms McGovern said: “Slashing workers’ rights and corporation tax and lowering our food, health and environmental standards to secure a trade deal with the US were not on the ballot paper.
“And as for the NHS, far from getting an extra £350m a week, it is increasingly clear that staff shortages caused by EU nurses and doctors leaving could break the health service. Mr Rees-Mogg knows this.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also said the UK would see a substantial windfall following Brexit as he called for a raft of tax cuts, the tearing up of red tape and a wholesale scrapping of trade tariffs.