Matt Hancock struggles to describe how the NHS would benefit from Brexit

Matt Hancock struggles to describe how the NHS would benefit from Brexit

Image: Parliament TV

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Matt Hancock stumbled over a question about whether Brexit would improve the NHS, put to him by Labour MP Luciana Berger.

Ms Berger tweeted footage of the exchange, which took place during a Commons Health and Social Care committee meeting on Wednesday, in which Mr Hancock - who has urged MPs to support Theresa May’s controversial Brexit deal - appeared to falter when asked whether the NHS would be better after Brexit.

“In your earlier remarks you said you wanted colleagues across the house to support the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement. Can you share with us what you believe are the benefits to the NHS from that withdrawal agreement above and beyond what the NHS already benefits from?” asked Ms Berger.

“It provides for a smooth exit from the EU therefore delivering on a Brexit vote while ensuring we ensuring we have that smooth exit,” responded Mr Hancock.

“But in terms of the other challenges colleagues have raised in terms of access to drugs and medicines, and availability of staff… is the net benefit of the WA greater than what the NHS enjoys today?” Ms Berger asked.

Mr Hancock replied: “It allows us to deliver on the result of the referendum, while ensuring we have a smooth exit, that, er, protects the supply chain for, er, medicines, and also ensures that we can, erm, continue to grow and fund the NHS. What it provides for is delivering the result of the referendum while protecting our NHS.”

“Perhaps I can ask the question another way. Will our NHS be better off as a result of the withdrawal agreement?” Ms Berger persisted.

“It’ll be better off because we’re putting an extra twenty billion pounds in,” said Mr Hancock.


'He couldn't tell me a single benefit'

Watch: Matt Hancock tells Julia Hartley-Brewer there is 'a lot of work to do' to keep medicine flowing after Brexit

In a tweet, Ms Berger wrote: “Yesterday at @CommonsHealth we questioned @MattHancock about the consequences of @theresa_may's Withdrawal Agreement for health and social care. He couldn't tell me of a single benefit of Brexit for the NHS.”

The £20 billion Mr Hancock refers to is the extra NHS funding that was announced in June, and confirmed in this year’s Budget.

Almost a week before the exchange between Mr Hancock and Ms Berger, the Health Secretary told Julia Hartley-Brewer: "In the event of a no-deal Brexit, if there is significant blockages at the border, for instance, if the French are very difficult about allowing things through, then we need to be prepared so people can get access to their medicines and there's an awful lot of work that needs to happen to make sure that's the case.

"If everybody does what they need to both in government and in the pharmaceutical companies and in the NHS then we will, I'm confident, we can have an unhindered supply of drugs and the medicines that people need."


'Brexit dividend'

When Theresa May announced the funding, she spoke of it being part-funded by a ‘Brexit dividend’.

"Some of the extra funding I am promising today will come from using the money we will no longer spend on our annual membership subscription to the European Union after we have left,” she said at the time, and also acknowledged some tax rises may be necessary.

But the government’s own fiscal watchdog warned before the Budget that there would be no ‘Brexit dividend’.

NHS and medical professionals have also raised concerns about Brexit’s effect on the NHS, with the chair of the British Pharmaceautical Industry expressing concerns over information-sharing when it came to drugs and diseases as well as the cost of stockpiling, and Dr Mike Galsworthy, founder of NHS Against Brexit, telling talkRADIO that staff shortages could increase after the UK leaves the EU if it’s more difficult for foreign staff to enter.