British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has set out a detailed vision for Britain’s exit from the European Union that revives the widely-criticised claim Brexit could boost the British health service by £350 million a week.
Just six days before Theresa May will set out her Brexit blueprint in a speech in Florence, Mr Johnson has penned an article laying out his own path for a “glorious” future outside the bloc.
He said Britain should not pay for access to European markets and must seize the opportunity to reform the tax system to encourage investment.
He suggests continued membership of the single market and customs union would make a “complete mockery” of the referendum result.
Mr Johnson’s decision to publicise his own Brexit strategy is likely to fuel speculation his leadership ambitions remain.
In the article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Mr Johnson insists Brexit will allow the UK to “be the greatest country on earth” and “our destiny will be in our own hands”.
“This country will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily,” he wrote.
The Leave campaign’s most eye-catching pledge during the referendum campaign was a claim ending Britain’s contributions to the EU would free up an extra £350 million a week that could be spent on the National Health Service.
It was widely derided and in the weeks after the result, Mr Johnson and other campaigners, appeared to distance themselves from the promise.
In the article however, he said the UK would “roughly” be £350 million better off and it would be a “fine thing” if a lot of it went on the health service.
Critics warned there is “absolutely no chance” of the £350 million pledge being delivered and said Mr Johnson was untrustworthy.
Mr Johnson does not mention plans for a transition period after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019 and argues there is no need to pay for market access.
“We would not expect to pay for access to their markets any more than they would expect to pay for access to ours,” he said.
He added: “We will have an immigration (system) that suits the UK, not slamming the door – but welcoming the talent we need, from the EU and around the world.”
Mr Johnson insisted free trade deals outside the EU could help lift billions out of poverty in developing parts of the world.
Labour’s Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of Open Britain, which is campaigning for continued single market membership, said: “Boris Johnson had a chance to vote to deliver the #350 million extra a week for the NHS in February, and he refused to do so.
“He promised to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and nothing has happened. No one can trust a word he says.
“The £350 million a week promise was a fib, and there is absolutely no chance of it being delivered. Boris should be apologising for his disgraceful conduct in the referendum, not continually making the same impossible promises.
“He’s like an old rocker who sings the same tunes, but they just don’t sound right anymore. A period of silence on his part would be welcome.”
Labour said the article exposed the divisions in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s top team.
A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Boris Johnson has laid bare the conflicts at the heart of Theresa May’s Government over Brexit and cut the ground from beneath the Prime Minister’s authority.
“In the process he has exposed the Tories’ real Brexit agenda – a race-to-the-bottom in regulation and corporate tax cuts to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the rights of the rest of us.
“The Foreign Secretary even has the gall to dredge up the fantasy of £350 million a week extra for the NHS.
“The Prime Minister must spell out now how this will be paid for, or stand condemned for once again trying to mislead the British public.”