Spend Brexit dividend on NHS, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

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Jacob Rees-Mogg has called on ministers to spend the Brexit dividend on the health service by warning it was not realistic to expect current levels of funding to be maintained.

The influential Tory backbencher said there had been a “significantly lower real-terms increase in health spending” since the Tories came into power compared to the last time the party was in government.

The prominent Eurosceptic also said he was “willing to go along with” Theresa May’s plans on Brexit, as well as dismissing questions over speculation he may be a future party leader.

In an interview on ITV’s Peston On Sunday, Mr Rees-Mogg said it was “not the time to start spending money like there’s no tomorrow”, ahead of the Chancellor’s spring statement on Tuesday.

“Having said that, there are some pressures in the public sector, particularly in health,” he said.

“I would like to see the dividend of leaving the European Union devoted to the health service.

“I think people felt that was promised during the referendum campaign and the figures on health spending, in real terms since 2010, is a 1.1% increase.

“Whereas in the period of the Conservatives in government from ’79 to ’97, it was 3.4%. So we’re running at a significantly lower real-terms increase in health spending currently.

“And with an aging population, with increasing medical sophistication, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that the current levels of spending can be maintained.”

Mr Rees-Mogg, who leads the influential European Research Group of Conservative Eurosceptics, told the programme he could accept the Prime Minister’s position over retaining membership of certain European regulators, such as the European Medicines Agency.

“I’m supportive of what the Prime Minister is trying to do,” he said.

“I recognise all of us have to compromise to some extent. So yes, of course, from a perfect point of view, I would rather not be in the agencies.

“But if that is the price to pay to get an overall trade deal, and if that is something that unites the country and the Conservative Party, then that is something that I can live with, because there won’t be direct effect of the European Court of Justice jurisdiction.

“Do I think the Prime Minister is right to argue for that? Well, I’m willing to go along with what she has set out as a package, and therefore I have to accept that part of it, although I’m less enthusiastic about that part than other parts.”

When asked if he or Mrs May should lead the Tories into the next election, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Theresa May. She is a fine leader and she has my full support.”

He added: “I’m not a runner. There’s no vacancy. I’ve answered this question in so many forums. I am not a candidate.”

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