EU Referendum

Reality Check: Has Leave promised £110bn of unfunded spending?

Will Straw saying: The Leave campaign has been exposed once again for promoting fantasy economics.

The claim: Leave campaigners have suggested a British government outside the EU could spend billions of pounds on the NHS, schools and tax cuts.

Reality Check verdict: If you add together all the different suggestions from leave campaigners about how Britain's contribution to the EU might otherwise be spent, they come to more than anyone thinks would be affordable. They are not actual spending commitments because none of the Leave campaigners can guarantee that any particular proposal for spending would happen following Brexit.

Will Straw from Britain Stronger in Europe is accusing the Leave campaign of "fantasy economics" because, they say, supporters of Leave have made £110bn of unfunded spending commitments.

They've compiled a list of quotes from Leave supporters and leaflets, which suggest spending the UK's EU budget contribution on other priorities.

Some of the specific figures are ones that Leave campaigners have used themselves; others are estimates. In some cases, it looks like a stretch to get to the figure that Britain Stronger in Europe suggests.

For example, they quote Vote Leave and John Redwood saying in general terms that taxes could be cut. But they cost for a figure of £7.9bn, the price of a 2p reduction to the basic rate of income tax. There's no evidence that any Leave campaigner has proposed that specific cut.

And they've costed Vote Leave's vague proposal that "we could build new roads" at £1.52bn, based on the cost of increasing spending on the Road Investment Strategy by 50%. Again, there was no such specific proposal.

They've also taken the suggestion on the side of the Vote Leave bus that the UK sends £350m a week to Brussels and that could be spent on the NHS instead, as an £18.2bn commitment. The UK Statistics Authority has also been critical of this claim, on the grounds that it ignores the rebate, which means that £350m a week is not sent to Brussels, and also that some of the contribution is already spent on other things in the UK.

It's true that Leave supporters have made lots of different suggestions that, if added together, would not all be affordable. But none of the Leave campaigners can guarantee that any particular proposal for spending will happen following Brexit.

And there's another point to keep in mind. The UK's contribution to the EU once the rebate has been taken into account is £14.4bn, some of which comes back to the UK to subsidise farmers, provide funding to depressed regions and pay for scientific research, for example.

That looks like a large amount of money but it's only 2% of public spending. The total amount that future governments will have to spend will depend more on the state of the economy, because if leaving the EU makes any significant change to economic growth, that effect would dwarf any savings from budget contributions.


Read more: The facts behind claims in the EU debate


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