Vote Leave's central claim branded 'misleading' by UK Statistics Authority
The Leave campaign today launched its ‘battle bus’ to tour the country making the case for Brexit, with former London mayor Boris Johnson in the driver’s seat.
A message printed on the bus reads:
‘We send the EU £350 million a week
let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave.’
Vote Leave’s newsletter today (and most days) says, ‘We send £350 million a week to the EU – enough to build a new hospital every week’, and the claim features in the campaign’s election video, released online.
However, despite their making this central to their case for Brexit, it’s not actually true.
The £350 million figure is based on an annual figure of £18 billion paid by the UK to the EU as a membership fee.
But as Full Fact and others have pointed out, this ignores the £5 billion rebate the UK receives from the EU. When this is deducted, the ‘weekly’ figure drops to roughly 250 million – rendering the Vote Leave figure off by £100 million.
So is Vote Leave correct to say ‘we send £350 million a week to the EU’ before the rebate is deducted? No. As Full Fact notes:
‘The UK doesn’t pay or ‘send to Brussels’ this higher figure of £18 billion, or anything equivalent per week or per day. The rebate is applied straight away, so the UK never contributes this much.’
Vote Leave also ignores the £4 billion or so the EU pays to the UK, mostly to subsidise British farming.
Indeed, the ‘£350 million’ claim is so false that the UK Statistics Authority wrote to Dominic Cummings, campaign director for Vote Leave, yesterday to underline the point. He said:
‘Without further explanation I consider these statements to be potentially misleading and it is disappointing that this figure has been used without such explanation.
Given the high level of public interest in this debate it is important that official statistics are used accurately, with important limitations or caveats clearly explained.’
Meanwhile, as the Stronger In campaign notes, that bus Boris Johnson is riding around in today was made in Germany and Poland – and would have cost £56,000 more if Britain left the EU and was subject to a 13 per cent tariff on German imports.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.