Liam Fox backs Boris Johnson’s call for ‘Brexit dividend’ to be spent on NHS
Dr Fox and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have backed Mr Johnson’s call for a health spending boost after Britain leaves the EU.
Liam Fox has become the latest Cabinet minister to publicly back Boris Johnson’s call for more spending on the NHS after Brexit.
The Foreign Secretary was rebuked by Theresa May for making his demand for an extra £100 million a week for the NHS public knowledge before a Cabinet discussion on health on Tuesday.
But his position – that money recouped as part of a “Brexit dividend” when Britain stops sending large sums to Brussels should be spent on the NHS – was publicly backed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and now the International Trade Secretary.
Their interventions could increase pressure on the Prime Minister to commit to boosting health spending after Brexit.
Dr Fox told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there is a case to spend more money on healthcare and we’re spending more money on healthcare.
“Exactly how we spend the dividend that comes from leaving the European Union will be determined by the priorities we face at the time.
“I find it absolutely unthinkable that health would not be amongst the top of those.
He added: “I think it’s very useful to remind people that we’re getting a dividend from leaving the European Union.”
Mrs May had pre-empted Mr Johnson as ministers gathered at No 10, telling the meeting any “Brexit dividend” would be allocated according to the Government’s priorities – including schools and housing, as well as health – while warning ministers they should keep Cabinet discussions private.
In the hour-long discussion that followed, there was frustration at the way Mr Johnson’s intentions became public knowledge, although some ministers backed his overall position.
After the meeting, Mr Hunt told the Commons Health Committee: “I don’t think any health secretary is ever going to not support potential extra resources for his or her department.”
Mr Johnson’s fellow Vote Leave campaigners Michael Gove and Chris Grayling also supported his call for the NHS to benefit from the “Brexit dividend”.
But there was an angry response from some Tory MPs, with former minister Anna Soubry warning Mrs May he would bring her down unless she sacked him.
Ms Soubry, a prominent pro-EU campaigner, said the time had come for the Prime Minister to get rid of Mr Johnson.
He had shown “longstanding incompetence and disloyalty” and unless Mrs May acts now “Boris will bring her down”, she said.
The row broke out amid signs of growing frustration among some backbenchers at the Government’s performance, prompting renewed speculation that the Foreign Secretary was “on manoeuvres”.
But speculation that he was attempting to engineer a row to resign or be sacked over a matter of principle were dismissed as “utter nonsense” by his allies.