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Does the Brexit dividend actually exist?

  Boris Johnson

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Voters received an additional £ 350 million a week to fund the NHS

As was clear in a Coventry focus group last week, for many voters Brexit was a call for something different, a response to great promises made by politicians.

With only one more year left, and the main progress of the government, which has until now created a grace period that will keep us in the EU for a few more years, I can not help but use the phrase that has struck the Prime Minister in the choice: "Nothing has changed."

And soon nothing will change. But the argument over how to keep perhaps the greatest of these promises is alive and well.

Without mentioning the bus (yes, the bus), the boldest promise in the referendum, stuck in people's minds, was to provide more money for the NHS.

The full-blooded among you will remember that the Prime Minister took an important step in the health service this week by accepting Jeremy Hunt's demands for a longer-term financing agreement and more money.

What the government was not sure about where the money came from. Yes, this money, which dangled before the voters in the referendum. The financing of health care currently planned for the coming years is nominally at least £ 1

00 million a week.

But the ministers have publicly committed themselves much more in the coming years.

Will this be, could that be the so-called Brexit dividend? It is no secret that the Foreign Minister and others who argue for withdrawal from the EU believe that more money should be found for the NHS and labeled as such. He has often made it public and continues to do so privately.

More interesting is where the balance of the Cabinet moves. Rumors indicate that the treasury takes what has been described as very purist.

All the numbers that have been done outside the EU so far suggest that the economy will grow more slowly after the Brexit than would otherwise be the case. Therefore, it makes no sense to claim that you can keep the promise of more money from the National Health Service (NHS) because the country, if you believe these numbers, is generally less good than it would otherwise have been.

Under these conditions, you can not claim a "dividend" on your departure because the money we save by not paying our membership fees is less than what we could lose altogether.

It therefore allows economists to flood their calculators when a "dividend" is discussed. But before one of them gets upset about what I'm about to write, there's a completely different way to calculate the "dividend" – a political one.

Under this argument, the economy could grow more slowly, but it will continue to grow. And those annoying predictions? Well, they usually turn out to be wrong. So, as the government now accepts, if the NHS needs a lot more money over a long period of time, why do not we label the money we pay to the EU as such, the nine billion or so a year, and say it against that NHS.

That alone is not the answer to all the problems of the NHS. But it could somehow go.

Politically, and if you can forget the sums, the government seems to focus on the notion of dividend.

Although the Prime Minister did not like using the term when we spoke to her this morning, she said very clearly that there would be large amounts of money from the EU that would benefit the NHS.

And I am told that privately she prefers this argument rather than the rather "purist" view of number 11.

It is worth noting that in recent weeks the argument to ease spending control not only in the NHS but also in the Department of Defense has been gained rather than required to keep the box low after a series of sessions that I find very exhaustingly described.

Perhaps, with the time for Brexit ticking, the Prime Minister will be brave enough to use the turnaround as a political dividend to set a different agenda.

It is also noteworthy that she does not exclude a tax increase to pay more for health care. The debate about the direction we need to go to is obviously far from over.

There is, of course, absolutely nothing certain about the political or financial image this time next year. I hate to think how out of balance this blog seems to read again in 12 months.

Some Remain Tories predict a "constitutional crisis" in October suggesting that they will fight the Brexit deal in parliament. In contrast, a Cabinet minister told me, "If the establishment tried to remove the result, we would have opinion riots about tax collection."

How could we possibly predict the continuation of negotiations next year, after what a minister described as "Brexit Hokey-Cokey for a year – we're in, out, in, out"?

Another predicted that the mess between Britain and Brussels next year will be "the most unpredictable and the most important, but also demands the greatest creativity".

In other words, nobody, not even those at the top of the government, can really know what's going to happen next. But the dividend or the Brexit pain will determine the fate of the government.

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