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It Looks Like The Leave Campaign Has Ditched Its "£350m For NHS" Pledge

"They should all hang their heads in shame," Tory MP Anna Soubry said.

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Leading figures from the Vote Leave campaign have come under attack for apparently dropping their key pledge to spend £350 million a week on the NHS after Brexit.

The anti-EU campaign has been relaunched as a new pressure group called Change Britain, backed by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, which makes no mention of NHS funding on its website.

The group, aimed at making sure Theresa May delivers on her promise that "Brexit means Brexit", instead points to new funding for "agriculture, science, research and poorer regions".

The pledge to spend £350 million a week on the NHS was infamously emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave campaign bus during the referendum campaign. UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who led the rival Leave.EU campaign, has said the pledge was a mistake.

Tory MP Anna Soubry, a former minister, said voters would be furious that Leave campaigners had quietly dropped their key vow.

"They should all hang their heads in shame," she said. "There were many people, particularly in less wealthy areas, who were convinced by Leave’s claim that if we left the EU we would be able to pour millions more into the NHS.

"The danger now is these people will become even more disillusioned with all politicians because this lot misled them."

Soubry is now a spokesperson for the Open Britain group, the successor to the official Remain campaign, which aims to hold pro-Leavers to account.

A number of senior Labour MPs, including Chuka Umunna, Emma Reynolds, Liz Kendall, and Pat McFadden, also urged former Leave campaigners to come clean about the NHS pledge.

In an open letter published by Open Britain, they said: "We warned this was a lie – and so it turns out to be.

"But there should be no escaping this pledge for the Leave campaign – they cannot walk away from it now, disown it or pretend it never happened. They must either admit it was a lie and apologise to their voters, or justify it and explain when it is coming.

"On behalf of the communities we represent, we will keep asking, where is the £350m for the NHS that was promised by the Leave campaign? Many will have voted to Leave based on this pledge. Those who made the pledge must now be held to account for the promise they made."

But Labour MP Gisela Stuart, a leading Leave campaigner, defended the NHS vow on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"We were a cross-party group which said we want to leave the EU," she said. "That will give us the right to make choices and priorities. And for me the priority was the NHS and you need to be in government to actually implement that.

"First of all we've got to leave, and then we can make the decision and then to me and to many of us the priority is the NHS."

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

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