LONDON, England – Staying in the European Union (EU) could increase Britain’s population by up to 5 million by 2030, putting the county’s health care system under “unsustainable” pressure, an organization that campaigns for the UK to leave the EU has claimed.
A document from Vote Leave says the EU’s commitment to the free movement of people and the UK’s new National Living Wage mean net migration from the EU to the UK will be between 170,000 and 430,000 a year, adding between 2.6 million and 5.2 million people to the British population by 2030.
The group Vote Leave calculates the NHS could have to contend with a new group of patients the size of “four Birminghams”, and demand for hospital emergency services could increase by up to 57 percent.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove also said the group’s estimates were “robust” and voting to leave the EU would strengthen the NHS. He argued the National Living Wage was an extra “pull factor” for migrants.
Voting to leave could mean “millions of pounds saved in ending EU contributions” could be given to “strengthen” the NHS instead, Gove said.
“Boris Johnson and I will use all our influence with government to give the NHS additional support when we wake up on 24 June. But if we vote to remain, I fear that the NHS will only face additional pressures,” he said.
“Even without the accession of any new countries, we can expect a continuing net flow of 172,000 new individuals from the EU into UK every year.”
Remain campaigners say the 5 million figure is “absurd” as it is based on five states joining the EU by 2020, which they say “is not remotely on the cards”.
A British exit from the EU, or Brexit, would rip away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial center.
Opinion polls have indicated that most UK voters believe staying in the EU would be best for Britain’s economy, but that support for leaving and remaining in the EU still remains substantial.
The economy and the impact of a possible British exit on jobs, wages and trade are a key battleground for both the “In” and “Out” campaigns before Britons vote on June 23 on whether to stay in the 28-member bloc.
The “In” campaign, those in favor of remaining in the bloc, argue that leaving it would risk the UK’s prosperity, diminish its influence over world affairs, and result in trade barriers between the UK and the EU.
Those that support an EU withdrawal argue it would allow Britain to be better able to control immigration, be in a better position to conduct its own trade negotiations, and be free from what they believe to be unnecessary EU regulations and bureaucracy.
British voters will decide whether to leave or stay in the EU in a June 23 referendum.