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Vote Leave's £350m for the NHS campaign was a lie, says Brexit-backing businessman

By Allan Preston

Published 14/07/2016

Criticism: Irwin Armstrong
Criticism: Irwin Armstrong

A Ballymena businessman who pushed for a Brexit has hit out at the "lies" spread by Leave campaigners.

Irwin Armstrong, a factory owner and former chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party, was one of the most vocal local backers of the drive to quit the European Union.

But despite getting the result that he wanted on June 24, he has now distanced himself from the campaign.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show, Mr Armstrong was asked about Vote Leave posters that claimed £350m was sent to the EU every week that could be spent on the NHS instead. "I in no way defend that poster," he replied. "A lot of people didn't really vote on that particular issue. It wasn't about the NHS, it was about getting back control of the United Kingdom."

Asked if he considered the £350m message a lie, he replied: "Yes, how many times do I have to say yes? You have got to understand I was not a member of Vote Leave, I was supporting a vote for leaving, which is a very different thing.

"I don't support anybody telling lies, and I could spend ages going through the lies on both sides."

The £350m figure was the central message for many Leave campaigners, and the slogan was even painted on the side of Tory MP and new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's campaign bus.

The outgoing Ukip leader Nigel Farage surprised many people by saying that it was a "mistake" to promise the amount, adding that it could not be guaranteed.

Yesterday, David Cameron, in his last day as Prime Minister, was asked what the consequences of the decision would be for Northern Ireland.

"We do need to make sure that, as we leave the European Union, we work out how to keep the benefits of the Common Travel Area," he replied.

"Hard work is being done now with civil servants in Northern Ireland, in Whitehall, but also in the Republic of Ireland, and that work needs to quicken."

During his final Prime Minister's Questions, he added: "I do believe Northern Ireland is stronger than it was six years ago."

Belfast Telegraph

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