Boris Johnson is breathing life back into the Leave campaign’s much-maligned claim that the £350 million paid to the EU every week can be spent on the NHS.
Less than a week before Theresa May makes her blueprint Brexit speech in Florence, the Foreign Secretary laid out his own path for a ‘glorious’ future outside the bloc.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson announced he was breaking his silence about how he thinks Brexit will make Britain the ‘greatest country on Earth’.
The Foreign Secretary’s decision to publicise his own Brexit strategy will likely fuel more speculation about a possible leadership bid.
He went on to say continued membership in the single market and customs union would make a ‘complete mockery’ of the referendum result.
Mr Johnson added he reckons Britain should not pay for access to European markets and use this opportunity to reform Britain’s tax system to encourage investment.
He said: ‘This country will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily.’
The Leave campaign’s eye-catching pledge about Brexit freeing up £350 million a week for the NHS was widely derided.
In the weeks following the result, Mr Johnson and other campaigners, appeared to distance themselves from the promise.
In the article for the Telegraph, however, he said the UK would ‘roughly’ be £350 million better off and it would be a ‘fine thing’ if a lot of it went on the health service.
He said: ‘Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per 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.
‘One of the advantages of investing in the NHS – if we combine that investment with reform – is that we can turbo charge the role of our health service in driving bioscience.’
Critics warned there is ‘absolutely no chance’ of the £350 million pledge being delivered and said Mr Johnson couldn’t be trusted.
Labour’s Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of Open Britain, which is campaigning for continued single market membership, said: ‘Boris Johnson had a chance to vote to deliver the £350 million extra a week for the NHS in February, and he refused to do so.
‘He promised to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and nothing has happened. No one can trust a word he says.
‘The £350 million a week promise was a fib, and there is absolutely no chance of it being delivered. Boris should be apologising for his disgraceful conduct in the referendum, not continually making the same impossible promises.
‘He’s like an old rocker who sings the same tunes, but they just don’t sound right anymore. A period of silence on his part would be welcome.’
Labour said the article exposed the divisions in Mrs May’s top team.
A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘Boris Johnson has laid bare the conflicts at the heart of Theresa May’s Government over Brexit and cut the ground from beneath the Prime Minister’s authority.
‘In the process he has exposed the Tories’ real Brexit agenda – a race-to-the-bottom in regulation and corporate tax cuts to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the rights of the rest of us.’