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Analysis

Has Boris misled MPs over £350m? If so, he should resign

by Luke Lythgoe | 28.11.2017

Boris Johnson has repeated his misleading claim that the UK can “take back control” of £350 million per week after we stop paying into the EU budget.

This time he said it in the House of Commons. The Ministerial Code stipulates that “ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister”.

Johnson responded yesterday to a question by Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake about his referendum pledge to deliver £350 million a week for the NHS as follows: “As the right honourable gentleman knows full well, when we leave the European Union, there will be at least £350 million a week, of which we will take back control.”

Johnson should be aware that this claim is erroneous. A similar formulation appeared in his 4,000-word Telegraph article in September, in which he wrote: “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per week.”

This prompted a letter from David Norgrove, the head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in which he accused Johnson of a “clear misuse of official statistics”. He explained that the claim “confuses gross and net contributions” by assuming that “payments currently made to the UK by the EU, including for example for the support of agriculture and scientific research, will not be paid by the UK government when we leave”.

Johnson replied with his own letter, claiming “wilful distortion” of his article. But the ONS confirmed that Norgrove had “not changed the conclusion set out in his letter”.

Johnson’s key error is to ignore the rebate which the UK gets from its contribution to the EU budget. This money never leaves the UK Treasury. What’s more, the UK has a veto over any changes to the rebate. So Johnson cannot claim that Britain ever loses control of this proportion of the £350 million per week gross figure – and therefore control cannot be taken back.

If Theresa May is serious about the Ministerial Code – as she should be – she should ask the foreign secretary to show he did not knowingly mislead Parliament. And if he can’t, she should demand his resignation.

InFacts asked Johnson to clarify his remark in the Commons. No reply had been received by time of publication.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Has Boris misled MPs over £350m? If so, he should resign”

  • Has this man no intelligence?
    No matter how often you repeat a lie, it still doesn’t make it true.
    But to perform in the way Boris has tells us everything we need to know about him.
    We are not taken in; we just think he is foolish.

  • Theresa May isn’t serious – about anything.

    Running through wheat fields, creating “hostile environments,” for vulnerable people and clinging on like limpet to power are all she is good for. The flaccid Johnson is going nowhere until Brexit is discredited in the minds of the British people, which is happening quite slowly.

  • Clearly something is going on under the table for the actions of Blous to be acceptable. Or not? Can this be the face of politics in the UK these day?

  • Boris has proved time and again he has no integrity, and if it were not for his seat being safe, there’s no way he would be an MP. The man sums up everything that is wrong about privilege, the supposed aristocracy and inherited wealth and position.

    The result is a complete moron who seems unable to hold back from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Could he possibly be related to Donald Trump?

  • Incredible that someone of Johnson’s track-record and demeanour could be posted to the position of Foreign Secretary. This is an important and serious position involving the utmost diplomatic sensitivity. He may well have a good sense of humour, but I can think of a 100 other jobs where that quality would be more appropriate, such as a late-night comedy host. He is widely regarded amongst European politicians as having distorted many facts on Brexit, and his unserious demeanour just reduces his stature further. This can only be a hindrance in the Brexit negotiations. You also have to question the PM’s thinking in appointing him.

  • I’m unsure if Boris is stupid or if it’s a clown act to get away with telling Tory lies, as on the same show everybody made a fuss because he said Germany never used chemical weapons in wars, he said an even bigger lie that nobody seems to have noticed, because he said there wasn’t a vote on the 2nd war against Iraq, when more Tories voted yes to it than other Parties. He either doesn’t know what the party he belongs to does, or it’s an experiment to see if all most people really remember about politics is last Tory propaganda headline they read.