So much for all those promises. Leading politicians in the campaign to pull the U.K. out of the European Union are back-pedaling fast on a number of pledges, particularly over extra money for health care.
The retreat has prompted howls of outrage, from politicians who wanted Britain to stay in the EU as well as some Leave voters who say they feel “cheated.”
Here are three pledges that are crumbling days after the historic Brexit vote:
Campaign promise #1: We’ll give EU cash to the National Health Service
The official Vote Leave campaign claimed that membership in the EU cost the U.K. £350 million a week, “enough to build a brand new, fully staffed … hospital every week.”
The slogan was painted on the side of the campaign’s bright red bus. Pro-Brexit politicians continued to make the claim, despite being repeatedly admonished by the independent statistics watchdog for misleading voters.
Iain Duncan Smith, a leading figure in Vote Leave, told the BBC that the campaign didn’t say “all” of it would go to the NHS but “a significant amount of it” would.
Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party and who campaigned for Brexit said implying that money sent to the EU could be spent on the health service in the future was a mistake.
“No I can’t [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim. That was one of the mistakes that I think the Leave campaign made,” he said on British TV after the vote.
About half of the money Britain hands over to the EU is returned to the country via subsidies for farmers, grants for research and funding for infrastructure. And that money is already committed.
Brexiteers told Britain’s farmers and poor regions such as Cornwall that they wouldn’t lose out financially once those funds are cut off. They made similar commitments to support U.K. universities and scientists — the second biggest beneficiaries of research grants from the EU.
Cornwall, in southwest England, voted in favor of leaving the EU. Local officials are already seeking confirmation from the government that the county won’t be worse off as a result.