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One of the most astonishing Brexit comments of the day

Leader of Britain's Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith gives his keynote address to the party conference in Blackpool, October 9, 2003. The embattled leader of BritainAEs opposition Conservative Party vowed defiantly on Thursday to challenge Tony Blair for the premiership, despite a rebellion against him that has thrown his party into crisis. REUTERS/Ian Hodgson
REUTERS/Ian Hodgson
Promises are “just a series of possibilities.”
  • Kira Bindrim
By Kira Bindrim

Executive editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

For many of the politicians behind the UK’s “Vote Leave” campaign, the operative word appears to have been campaign. Securing any benefits of Brexit promised ahead of the vote is a bridge to be crossed later, by someone else. Perhaps no comment better illustrates this than one from Ian Duncan Smith, leader of Britain’s conservative party and vociferous Leave proponent, on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (June 26).

Here’s how it went.

Marr: First of all can I ask about the status of some of the promises that were made by your side of the argument. We’ve already – Is the £350m that we were told going to go to the NHS is that going to go to the NHS and when?


The two debate whether the Leave Campaign said the £350m would go to the NHS in its entirely. 

Marr: I want to carry on with this one, because if all of that £350m or almost all of it goes to the NHS to build as your video said, a hospital every week, whatever, however it’s spent, that means that quite a lot of money in regional and structural funds which are included in that which goes to Cornwall, Wales, other parts of the country, money going to universities can’t go to those places.

IDS: No, no, Andrew what was actually said at the time, and I said it myself consistently through, which was we hand over 19.1 billion pounds, half of which is gone into the European Union and other bits come back directed by the European Union. So one second. We said throughout that we would stand by some critical areas. Those areas that are being funded in structural and regional funds, would be funded, we’d have more money to spend on the NHS because we wouldn’t be losing half of that sum of money, and we’d stand by commitments that have been made to things like agriculture. The rest were all just a series of possibilities of what you then could do beyond those main commitments and that was a commitment made at the time.

Let that sink in. One of the central promises of the Leave Campaign was actually just a series of possibilities.

When it comes to the specifics of a post-Brexit Britain, no one is faring particularly well. On Sky News, political editor Faisal Islam said a Tory MP who backed Leave told him it’s not the campaign’s responsibility to come up with a plan in the first place. And on Friday, UK independence party leader Nigel Farage said the Leave campaign’s promise to redirect EU money to the National Health Service was a “mistake.” Well, good thing no one put that one on a bus.

REUTERS/Darren Staples

Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted a paraphrased version of the Marr show that appeared in the Guardian, incorrectly attributing the paraphrase as a direct quote by Smith.

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