Senior Tory Brexiteer John Redwood has sparked ridicule from Labour MPs after admitting that the UK is “desperately in need” of money for schools, hospitals and Universal Credit.
The former Cabinet minister, a leading ‘Leave’ campaigner, said that Britain should not hand over any more cash to the European Union because the funds were required for public services.
Redwood told MPs that an extended Brexit transition period, seen as a possible way to break the deadlocked talks with Brussels, would be unacceptable because it could cost £15bn in one year.
“We are desperately in need of more money for our schools, for our hospitals, for Universal Credit and for our defence,” Redwood said.
He added that extending the transition would be “an act of great rashness” that would allow the EU to “front-load” its next seven-year budget and leave the UK liable for future costs.
Redwood has previously said that there could be a post-Brexit dividend to slash VAT and boost NHS spending, and has blamed the EU for previous spending cuts.
But Labour MPs pounced on the Thatcherite MP’s remarks about the need to end austerity, jeering that he had supported cutbacks until now.
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd attacked Redwood’s “brass neck”.
“He spent eight years being a cheerleader for austerity, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is under huge pressure to use the Budget next week to pump billions into the NHS and Universal Credit.
May herself used her Tory party conference speech earlier this month to vow an end to austerity, seven years after the Cameron-led government started to slash spending.
Redwood was joined by several Tory backbench Brexiteers who warned the government not to lengthen the transition period.
The transition is currently due to start next March, when the UK formally quits the EU, and end in late 2020.
Treasury Minister John Glen said any extension would last for “only be a matter of months”, but kept open the option.
“The length and cost of any implementation period is subject to negotiations,” he said. Glen later added: “There is no expectation that this government will be seeking to pay more money to the EU.”