Recipients of EU grants including those for research and innovation won’t be left short of cash in the case of Brexit as the UK government will easily replace all the missing funding from savings made by discontinuing contributions into the EU budget, high-profile Brexit proponents have claimed.
According to an open letter seen by Sky News, signed among others by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, employment minister Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, the UK government will continue supporting current recipients of EU grants beyond 2020 when the UK participation in the EU-funded programmes will end in the case of a Brexit.
"There is more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU - including universities, scientists, family farmers, regional funds, cultural organisations and others - will continue to do so while also ensuring that we save money that can be spent on our priorities,” the letter stated.
"We propose that at least £5.5bn of that be spent on the NHS by 2020, giving it a much-needed £100m per week cash transfusion, and to use £1.7bn to abolish VAT on household energy bills."
According to Patel, it would be entirely in the hands of the government how it uses the money, which it will no longer need to send to Brussels.
"We are giving money to the European Union and when it comes back, it comes back with controls, it comes back with us as government ministers and the British Government not being able to decide how to prioritise that money and what we can spend it on, it's the European Union that dictates how we spend that money,” Patel said.
She also dismissed concerns that leaving the European Union would have a significant negative effect on the UK economy.
"There would be more economic growth through the opportunities that we would have to trade with new countries around the world," Patel said.
However, Remain supporters said the notion that the UK would not suffer economically if it decides to leave the EU is rather misguided.
"Vote Leave say, in their latest fantasy economics, we are going to give all this money back - that money won't exist,” said Labour In campaign chief Alan Johnson.
"It only takes a 0.6 per cent movement in our wealth, GDP only has to be hit by just over half-a-percent to eradicate the £8bn - not £19bn that they were claiming - the £8bn that is sent to Europe and distributed through farming subsidies etcetera.
"Losing our access to the biggest commercial market in the world, turning our back on something we created, is going to damage our economy. That's going to damage public finances, that's going to hit public services."
Multiple studies, including one by the Confederation of British Industry, have previously stated that any possible savings on EU contributions would be cancelled out by the Brexit consequences. The CBI study predicted the UK would take years to recover from the initial shock.
"The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said leaving would lead to a £40 billion black hole in the public finances and nine out of 10 economists say leaving would damage the economy,” said former Labour chancellor Lord Alistair Darling.
A study by Universities UK published last week said university and research grants from the EU sustain 19,000 jobs in the UK either directly in the education sector or in other benefitting industries.