May Revives dismissed promise of 'Brexit Dividend' for health care

Few British institutions are as respected as the country's health care provider, the National Health Service, and a pledge to divert money to it helped persuade Britons to vote for withdrawal from the European Union.

But that claim was long ago debunked, and by promising a "Brexit dividend" for health provision on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May heightened the acrimonious debate over Britain's exit from the 28-country bloc while leaving key financial questions unanswered.

May said the health service, which is under severe strain, would be given an extra $26 billion a year by 2023, an increase of around 3.4 percent. She later acknowledged that taxes would have to increase to fund health care.

Although it works out at around $510 million a week, it is less impressive than it sounds. The health service's average annual funding rise since its foundation in 1948 has generally been 3.7 percent.

More contentious is the assertion that, in the near future, the health service will be funded, even in part, by a Brexit dividend.

May based the claim on the fact that Britain, which pays around $12 billion a year to the bloc in net contributions, will cease to make those payments once it leaves.

But in the short term at least, that money will be swallowed up by a divorce payment of around $52 billion that Britain has agreed to pay the bloc to honor outstanding commitments, and by other pledges. New York Times