Ruth Davidson reignites dispute with Boris Johnson over UK payments to EU

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 16 January 2018 in News

Row over EU payments reignites after Boris Johnson suggests the £350m figure used by leave campaign “grossly underestimated” how much money the UK pays to the EU

Image credit: PA

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has risked reigniting a dispute with Boris Johnson after rejecting claims from the foreign secretary over the size of the UK’s financial contribution to the EU for a second time.

The Vote Leave campaign faced criticism during the referendum campaign after claiming the UK sent £350m a week to the EU and promising that a vote for Brexit would see the money spent on the NHS instead.

The Scottish Tory leader confronted Johnson over the claim during the run-up to the vote, using a televised debate to warn the public: “You’re being asked to make a decision on Friday that’s irreversible, you can’t change it, and you’re being sold it on a lie.”

“They lied about the costs of Europe. They lied about Turkey. They lied about the European Army. We have a veto on all those things. They’ve put them in their leaflets and it’s not good enough. You deserve the truth.”

Johnson was then reprimanded by Sir David Norgrove, chair of the UK statistics authority, over the £350m figure, with the watchdog clarifying that it confused gross and net contributions and represented “a clear misuse of official statistics”.

But the row has reignited after Johnson repeated the campaign claim, this time to suggest the £350m figure “grossly underestimated” how much money the UK pays to the EU.

Davidson was then questioned on the comments on ITV Border. She said: “Well, look, 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.”

Pressed on whether Johnson was lying, Davidson said: “Like I say, I can only take the analysis that I’ve seen, that I’ve seen from economists around the world, and we believed in the arguments that we were putting forward for remain.”

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