UK paid half the amount claimed by Brexit campaign to EU

By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • New figures appear set to reignite the dispute over one of the most controversial claims made by the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union (EU).

Vote Leave said during the Brexit referendum campaign last year that Britain pays £350 million (RM1.96 billion) a week to the bloc, money that could be redirected to the cash-strapped state-run National Health Service. The figure was emblazoned on the side of its campaign bus and is regarded as being influential in swinging the referendum in favour of a vote to quit the EU.

But figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in London show Britain contributed £9.4 billion last year, about £180 million a week, once the money the UK gets back from the EU is taken into account. This includes a £5 billion rebate and £4.4 billion in public-sector credits such as payments via the European Regional Development Fund and the Agricultural Guarantee Fund.

The net contribution averaged just £8.1 billion between 2012 and 2016 if EU data on credits to the UK public and private sectors, such as research grants to British universities, are included, according to the ONS.

The £350 million claim was widely criticised, with the UK Statistics Authority saying it was “potentially misleading” and undermined trust in official statistics because it ignored money the EU sends back to Britain. Chair David Norgrove said last month he was “surprised and disappointed” when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, continued to use the figure.