Vote Leave chief executive accused of ‘contempt for the electorate’

Elliott admitted that his organisation relied on a 'badly worded' claim that EU regulations cost the UK £33bn a year


Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave, has admitted that his organisation cannot absolutely claim that the UK could save £33bn by scrapping EU regulations.

Giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, Elliott conceded that his organisation had drawn on a ‘badly worded’ report suggesting that removing EU bureaucracy would save the UK £33bn, a number previously invoked by Priti Patel and quoted on the Vote Leave website. However, Vote Leave head of research, Oliver Lewis, said they would stand by the top line figure.

The number had been based on Open Europe research, but has been presented out of context by Vote Leave, who ignored the think tank’s qualification that regulations generate annual benefits of £58.6bn.

Open Europe has subsequently clarified that the greatest possible annual saving would be £12.8bn.

Elliott also acknowledged that many of the EU’s regulations, such as anti-discrimination laws, are good and would be kept in some form post-Brexit, sparking calls for Vote Leave to re-cost the impacts of its campaign ahead of the referendum on 23 June.

Elliott was ordered to appear before the committee after turning down three previous invitations. Different committee members accused him of ‘mucking around’ parliament and demonstrating  ‘contempt for the electorate’.

The committee has also questioned Vote Leave’s repeated claim that the UK pays £350m to the EU per week, highlighting that it has not taken the UK’s rebate into account. Factoring in the rebate, the UK’s weekly contribution is closer to £250m. Additionally, when EU spending on the UK is factored in the number is even lower.

While Vote Leave claims that the UK’s annual payment to the EU is £18bn, in fact the net annual contribution of the UK is approximately £8.5bn.

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