Labour Report the Foreign Secretary to the UK Statistics Authority

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, has said that he has written to the UK Statistics Authority to question comments made by Boris Johnson relating to Brexit. Starmer said that the Foreign Secretary has made false claims regarding the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union.

Starmer’s letter reads:

“I am writing to seek clarification on comments made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday [15 January] about the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union (EU).

In an interview with The Guardian the Foreign Secretary said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”

The newspaper reports that “Johnson argued that the UK’s EU contribution was already up to £362m per week for 2017-18 and would rise annually to £410m, £431m, and then to £438m by 2020-21 – ‘theoretically the last year of the transition period.’”

The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading. For example, in September of last year the Statistics Authority wrote to the Foreign Secretary saying, “it is a clear misuse of official statistics.” 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.

I would therefore be grateful if you could make a statement on the accuracy of the Foreign Secretary’s most recent comments”.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister rejected the claims and said:

“Does the amount of money which we send to the EU fluctuate? And the answer is, yes it does. Some years it is bigger, some years it is smaller. Those figures are published on the OBR website. The PM has said that once we leave the EU we will have significant sums of money which we will choose how that money is spent, and we can spend that on our priority areas”.