by Adam Yardley
Brexit is shaping up to be a process of absolute mammoth proportions for both the UK and its leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, moving ever-closer to the date when the country will leave the European Union in March 2019. Following a week of ministers leaving the PM’s cabinet due to clashes over Brexit strategy and following a narrow win for the PM in parliament, things maybe could have gone a whole lot worse – though anyone who can recall about a month ago when May claimed that there will be a ‘Brexit Dividend’ to help spend on UK resources once the country has finalized Brexit will perhaps be surprised to hear that no such fund actually exists. At least, that’s what an independent watchdog has concluded.
It’s not just any old watchdog who is reporting this news, however, as it seems that the official, independent adjudicator for UK government spending has declared that there will be no such dividend for the country once it leaves the EU next year. May had proposed to the media that a pledge of extra money for the NHS would in fact be part paid by a Brexit dividend – one which would open up as a result of money the UK would save in not paying cash over to the EU. The Office for Budget Responsibility confirmed – officially – that there is set to be no such fund available once Brexit occurs – at least, that’s what’s being expected, following the OBR’s latest Fiscal Sustainability Report.
“Our provisional analysis suggests Brexit is more likely to weaken than strengthen the public finances overall,” states the report. “There will be direct savings from the net contributions to the EU budget that the UK will no longer have to make, but it is unclear how much will be available after payments towards the agreed withdrawal settlement and other Brexit-related spending commitments.”
“Our projects suggest that the public finances are likely to come under significant pressure over the longer term, due to an ageing population and further upward pressure on health spending from factors such as technological advances and the rising prevalence of chronic health conditions,” the OBR confirmed.
There we have it – unfortunately, May’s apparent silver lining may not seem so shining after all – where will this leave the already clustered Brexit process? Where will the UK be in March? Hold on tight!
▶ Watch Theresa May's June statement saying that part of a £20.5 billion-a-year boost to the NHS budget coming from a Brexit Dividend