British PM Johnson ready to fast-track health funding to meet Brexit pledge

British PM Boris Johnson announced the setting aside of 1.8 billion pounds (S$3.01 billion) to upgrade 20 hospitals, on Aug 4, 2019.
British PM Boris Johnson announced the setting aside of 1.8 billion pounds (S$3.01 billion) to upgrade 20 hospitals, on Aug 4, 2019.PHOTO: DPA

LONDON (REUTERS) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson will fast-track funding for Britain's public health service, announcing 1.8 billion pounds (S$3.01 billion) to upgrade 20 hospitals, part of the new leader's push to meet Brexit pledges made in the 2016 referendum.

Johnson, a figurehead for the "Leave" campaign, promoted the idea that Britain could spend 350 million pounds a week on the National Health Service after Brexit, often photographed next to the slogan on a "Vote Leave" bus.

The new prime minister is trying to go some way to meet those pledges as quickly as possible, a bid to restore some of the trust in politicians that has been eroded in the three years since the referendum that deeply divided the country.

"Which is why I am so determined to deliver now on the promises of that 2016 referendum campaign: not just to honour the will of the people, but to increase the cash available for this amazing national institution," he wrote in the Sunday Times.

"It is thanks to this country's strong economic performance that we are now able to announce 1.8 billion pounds more for the NHS to buy vital new kit and confirm new upgrades for 20 hospitals across the country."

A source confirmed earlier that the government was planning to bring forward an earlier commitment made by his predecessor Theresa May to give the National Health Service (NHS) an additional 20 billion pounds by 2023.

Meanwhile, health policy chief for the main opposition Labour Party also said on Sunday that there will be opportunities in September for lawmakers to stop Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal.

Earlier, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Johnson's senior adviser Dominic Cummings had said lawmakers will not be able to stop a so-called no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 by bringing a vote of no confidence.

"There will be opportunities for us when parliament returns in September to stop no deal," Labour's Jon Ashworth told Sky News.

"The government will have to bring forward appropriate legislation to prepare for this Brexit no-deal exit that they want. And we will use all the means available to us in parliament ... and we will work to stop no deal."