Vote Leave savaged by watchdog over £350 million claim

Posted On: 
27th May 2016

A top watchdog has launched another bitter attack on Vote Leave over the campaign group's claim that Brexit would save the UK £350m a week.

Vote Leave have made the £350 million claim a central plank of their campaign
PA Images

Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the independent UK Statistics Authority, said the assertion was "misleading" and urged them to stop making it.

Senior figures within the Vote Leave campaign – including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – have repeatedly claimed that leaving the EU would free up £350m-worth of contributions the UK sends to Brussels every week.

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But in a strongly-worded statement, Sir Andrew said that was wrong because it did not take account of the British rebate, or other payments the EU makes to help the public and private sector in the UK.

He said: "Given the high level of public interest in the European Union referendum debate, it is vital that official statistics are used accurately, with important caveats and limitations explained.

"The UK Statistics Authority is disappointed to note that there continue to be suggestions that the UK contributes £350m to the EU each week, and that this full amount could be spent elsewhere.

"As we have made clear, the UK’s contribution to the EU is paid after the application of the rebate. We have also pointed out that there are payments received by the UK public and private sectors that are relevant here.

"The continued use of a gross figure in contexts that imply it is a net figure is misleading and undermines trust in official statistics."

It is the second time Sir Andrew has entered the debate to criticise Vote Leave's £350m claims.

Last month, he said it was "potentially misleading" and accused the pro-Brexit group of a "lack of clarity".

But Vote Leave stood by the £350m figure, arguing: "As the Office for National Statistics makes clear, the EU takes £350m from us every week. That is the total debit made from our national accounts.

"We get some money back but that is controlled by the EU - if we vote Leave we will take back control of all of this money. We will be able to spend our money on our priorities like the NHS."