Labour reports PM to advertising watchdog over ‘Brexit dividend’ claim

PUBLISHED: 17:36 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:36 19 June 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May signs the leg cast of patient Jade Myers, 15, from London, who broke her leg falling off a wall. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Theresa May signs the leg cast of patient Jade Myers, 15, from London, who broke her leg falling off a wall. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has reported the prime minister to the advertising watchdog over claims there would be a “Brexit dividend” to fund a cash boost for the NHS.

Theresa May has claimed the NHS will get an extra £20 billion a year by 2023 with the extra money coming from tax rises and the money that Britain no longer pays to the EU.

Reporting on the plan Number 10’s Twitter account claimed: “Our long-term plan for the NHS. Funded by the Brexit dividend with us as a country contributing a bit more.”

However suggestions of a Brexit dividend have been strongly refuted by economists, opposition MPs and even some Conservative MPs.

Paul Johnson, the director of economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “There isn’t a Brexit dividend.” He added: “Actually the public finances will be £15bn or so worse off, not better off, so there really just isn’t money there for a Brexit dividend.”

House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee chairman Sarah Wollaston described talk of a Brexit dividend as “tosh”.

Now Watson has written to the advertising watchdog the Advertising Standard Agency demanding action over the claims.

He writes: “The thread of graphics posted by the UK Prime Minister Twitter account was an ad campaign promoting the government’s policy to millions of followers.

“The website goes on to say ‘the ASA will intervene if an ad by a public body crosses the line, whether that’s through being harmful, offensive or misleading… government departments, local authorities and other public bodies should also ensure that their ads are not misleading and that objective claims are supported by robust evidence’.

“Unfortunately, the ‘Brexit dividend’ is widely regarded as at best misleading and at worst a complete myth.

“Given the importance of the NHS to the millions of people who follow government advertising on the UK Prime Minister twitter feed, I request that you investigate whether the advertising material breaches ASA policy that advertising has to be supported by the ‘robust evidence.”

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