Boris Johnson has fuelled fresh anger over the claim the NHS will get £350m a week extra after leaving the EU - claiming the figure was too low and “grossly underestimated”.
In an interview with the Guardian, the Foreign Secretary said that the UK’s weekly gross contribution would rise to £438m, and that the NHS would get extra cash.
The £350m figure, emblazoned on the side of the Leave campaign bus, became notorious after repeated claims it was misleading, including by the UK Statistics Authority.
Critics pointed out how £350m related to the gross figure the UK effectively contributes to the UK, but the total is much smaller when what the UK gets back from the EU is taken into account.
After the vote, leading ‘Brexit’ campaigner Iain Duncan Smith claimed he “never said” the NHS would get £350m extra.
Nigel Farage admitted it was a “mistake” for the Leave campaign to make the pledge - though he was never formally part of the official Leave campaign.
But Johnson told the newspaper: “There was an error on the side of the bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”
He admitted the Leave campaign had used a gross figure, and said about half the total could be lavished on public services.
He said: “As and when the cash becomes available – and it won’t until we leave – the NHS should be at the very top of the list.”
In the story, the Tory Cabinet minister pointed out that the UK’s EU contribution was already up to £362m per week for 2017-18 and would rise annually to o £438m by 2020-21, when the ‘transition’ period ends.
His comments prompted a wave of outrage.
Labour MP Alison McGovern, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: “Our NHS is in the middle of a winter crisis and Boris Johnson’s solution is to return to the scene of his previous crimes and promise ever larger slices of pie in the sky.
“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.
“Boris Johnson promised £350 million a week for the NHS while telling us the EU could go whistle but then backed a £40 billion divorce bill.
“Does anyone think he’ll leave our NHS doing anything other than whistling in the wind for the extra resources it badly needs?”
Eloise Todd, CEO of anti-Brexit organisation Best for Britain, said: “This is a yet another un-truth from Boris, a man who has become so obsessed with the lie he slapped on the side of the bus.
“You have the sense that Boris will be arguing about £350m, that bus and that pledge for the rest of his political life.
“He sold Brexit on a false prospectus and with the NHS in crisis people are rightly asking where is the money and if it’s not forthcoming they should have the right to change their mind. The man is a snake oil salesman.”
But some suggested Johnson was trolling Remain supporters.