Keir Starmer demands UK stats bosses rebuke Boris Johnson over latest EU spending claim

Posted On: 
16th January 2018

Labour has called on the UK statistics watchdog to rebuke Boris Johnson after he claimed Britain will have even more than £350m a week extra to spend after Brexit.

UK stats boss Sir David Norgrove has scolded Boris Johnson over his Brexit claims before
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary said the figures - which was slapped on the side of the Vote Leave tour bus during the referendum campaign - was a “gross underestimate”.

In an interview with The Guardian, he said once the UK finally quits the bloc after the expected two-year transitional phase, the sum will have risen to £438m.

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But Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer appealed to stats boss Sir David Norgrove, who in September publicly slapped down Mr Johnson for his claims about the EU contribution.

In a letter to the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Keir said: “The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading...

“And yet, Mr Johnson has chosen to repeat this statement and expand on the claim even further. I do not believe this to be acceptable.”

He called on the stats watchdog to “make a statement on the accuracy” of the latest claim.

Mr Norgrove had a public spat with Mr Johnson over the £350m figure back in September - branding it “a clear misuse of official statistics”.

He said it was wrong to use the gross figure of what the UK allocates to the EU, since Britain in fact gets a rebate worth millions to spend on itself.

But Brexit supporters like Mr Johnson argue the UK has no say over how the rebate is spent and therefore will be “taking back control” of the cash after Brexit.

Mr Johnson had told The Guardian: “There was an error on the side of the bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control...

“As and when the cash becomes available – and it won’t until we leave – the NHS should be at the very top of the list.”

But he was scorned by fellow Tory MP Anna Soubry, who told the Daily Politics today he had “conned” the electorate and called on him to “man up” and come clean.

Scottish Tory leader - who went head-to-head with Mr Johnson in a pre-referendum televised debate at Wembley - said she stood by her opposition to the Vote Leave campaign's cash claims.

She told ITV Border: "He’s a member of the Cabinet and he gets to see the Treasury’s books. I’m not a member of government and I don’t. But my understanding from as many economists and government watchers that were there at the time was that I was correct in what I said when I was on the stage at Wembley debating it."

The UK Statistics Authority refused to comment beyond sharing information about the UK’s contribution to the EU on its Twitter feed.