Remember The Big Red Bus And What It Said On The Side Of It?

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readJan 13, 2022

Research vindicates £350m/week claim on side of Big Red Brexit Bus

We have now left the EU and spending figures show the NHS can expect to receive £415m more per week this year — thanks to Brexit! We all know how the big red Brexit bus became a focus of Remainer raspberries and ridicule.

The fact the figure of £350m per week emblazoned on its side was regularly contested, not just during the referendum but at every opportunity for the next three years, showed just how much it riled EU fanatics. They went truly bonkers over it and now they are going to go even more bonkers over it.

I do like winding Remainers and Rejoiners up it's what they deserve and I will continue to wind them up every chance I get.

So with that in mind let the party begin.

The £350m a week figure was irrelevant — the message was about making our own spending priorities — and being able to deliver them.

The number was contestable because it represented the gross payment due by the UK to the EU of £18.9bn divided by 52 weeks, rather than the lower net figure of what — after abatements and EU spending — it actually cost.

How the figure was arrived at was, however, never the point. The intention was to demonstrate that the money we sent to the EU could be spent on other things and that it would be for the British people — by electing their governments — who would have the say.

The actions of the Remainer Establishment cost the country billions

The fight by opponents of Brexit to disrespect democracy by preventing us from leaving the EU dragged out our departure unnecessarily, costing the country billions and dividing the nation further. We only left officially on 31st January 2020 and we only ended the transition period with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 1st January 2021.

Through all of that period, Remainers supported the UK paying more money to the EU, be it our membership fees, the additional foreign aid commitments or any other funds going to Brussels — and of course backed the higher EU estimate of the ‘divorce settlement’ rather than that calculated by the UK’s National Audit Office.

But what became of the funding to the NHS?

Firstly it was never a promise, the Vote Leave campaign was not a political party and could not make a promise on behalf of others. Yet for all that the post-referendum Conservative Governments have been conscious of the importance of the £350m a week figure and both Theresa May and Boris Johnson made commitments to spend that amount.

Well, now we are in spending the year 2021/22 — some five years from 2016/17 — and we can see what the outcome has been, and yay, the figure has not just been met but bettered!

Big Red Brexit Bus claim

Note: None of the following figures includes Covid spending — all of that has been stripped out. I have also allowed for inflation, so these figures represent real spending increases.

  • Red bus claim: £350m per week extra for NHS
  • The reality in 2021: £415m per week extra for NHS
  • Budgeted for 2024: 557m per week extra for NHS

Spending higher than was hoped — even after taking out Covid spending

In 2016/17 core funding of the NHS across the UK was 137.4bn. The ‘target’ of £350m a week would cost an additional £18.2bn a year, requiring the total spending budget to clear £155.6bn. The published figures for 2021/22 is £159bn — equivalent to an extra £415m per week.

It does not end there, for the UK Government has published its NHS spending up until 2024/25 and by then it will have risen to £166bn — meaning an increase of £557m a week more than before the referendum (allowing for inflation).

No guarantees but the money is what matters

The extra money cannot guarantee our NHS will be able to meet expectations or be the best in the world — it simply means that after setting a priority that target was met. Maybe priorities will change, maybe we will want some reforms in the NHS itself?

Who knows, the point is the idea of the side of the big red bus — that we could take back control, save ourselves some money and spend it on other things — worked and has been delivered.

The big red Brexit bus will forever be a part of the EU referendum folklore and political history. People will argue over the amount on the side of the bus and if it was a truly representative figure. If it were the net figure it would have been £180m a week — but that sum missed out all sorts of other add-on costs that the Remainers did not want to talk about — like the additional £1.3bn per annum given to EU foreign aid.

The truth is that the message was what mattered, not the number. The fact that people argued about the number only exposed the fact that we were sending millions a week to Brussels and brought it to more people’s attention. This campaign tactic was intentional and it worked, the Remainers giving it more publicity than if they had simply kept shtum.

Now the figure has been exceeded we might hear less about it as the Remainers slink away defeated once again. Perhaps it's time though to shove it in their faces every time they have the audacity to show their heads above the parapet. 😁

And now we have the ability to determine our spending priorities we might consider what else needs changing.

Sources: The Kings Fund | The Health Foundation | Vote Leave



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.