Posted on Sep 16, 2017
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has refocussed the Brexit debate on the £350 million per week that the UK will save from leaving the EU.
In what is being perceived by many as the opening shot in his long anticipated leadership campaign, he suggests that much of this money will be spent on propping up Britain's ailing National Health Service.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson argued that Britain should not continue to make payments to the EU after Brexit and claimed that staying in the single market or customs union would in effect betray the referendum vote.
He said Britain would “keep environmental and social protections that are fair and wise”, but get rid of other EU regulations that, he claimed, cost between 4% and 7% of GDP.
And he called on the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to make changes to the fiscal system. “We should seize the opportunity of Brexit to reform our tax system,” he said, giving the example of cutting VAT on tampons.
Johnson's reference to VAT is of interest, as this may be the first reference to the tax during the public debate on Brexit. It is rarely, if ever, mentioned that VAT is an EU-led tax - indeed its correct name is 'European Union Value Added Tax' - the increase in the UK rate from 17.5% to 20% in January 2011 took place as part of the harmonisation of VAT levels across the EU.
Whilst VAT is collected by member states, a proportion goes to the European Union in the form of a levy: This appears on the EU's balance sheet as "VAT-based own resources".
Experience of course tells us that taxes do not go down, they only increase, there being little or no evidence to the contrary.
In reverting to the debate about potential savings post-Brexit, Johnson is taking possession of what little remains of UKIP's political ground, although such a move would be seen as unnecessary for its own sake. It will, however, strengthen his appeal to the demographic that supported the Brexit vote, a constituency in which he already enjoys a positive image.
That this comes just days after quiet briefings against beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, and that Johnson's lengthy article appeared in the Telegraph - regarded as the unofficial organ of the Conservative Party - suggests that the game is afoot.
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