The UK Statistics Authority this week issued a damming verdict on the Vote Leave campaign’s misleading claims that over £350 million a week is sent by the UK to Europe, following a complaint by Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk.
In a letter to the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot, Norman Lamb pointed out that the £350 million figure is false because it includes funds which are returned to the UK, but also the UK rebate, which is in fact never sent to the EU.
Responding to the letter, Sir Andrew Dilnot has described the figures used by Leave campaigners as "lacking clarity" and "misleading".
Commenting, Norman Lamb said:
“This is a damning indictment of the Leave campaign. There are no official reputable bodies in the country or internationally who have backed their bogus claims.
“It is yet another example of their desperate attempts to mislead people throughout the referendum.
“They must withdraw any campaign material with this misleading and deliberately unclear figure immediately.
“The British people deserve better.”
The response from Sir Andrew Dilnot can be read here.
In his original letter, Norman Lamb wrote:
As you will have seen, Vote Leave, the officially designated campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, has repeatedly claimed that over £350 million a week, or £18.8bn a year, is sent by the UK to Europe.
Vote Leave claim that if Britain were to leave Europe this money could be repatriated and spent in its entirety on the NHS.
This claim has been repeatedly used by the campaign, even though it has been shown to be inaccurate by independent fact-checkers. Just today the BBC has said, “Leaving the EU would not give the UK an extra £350 million a week to spend on the NHS”.
The £350 million figure is false because it includes funds which are returned to the UK, but also the UK rebate, which is in fact never sent to the EU.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has contradicted the figure, stating that the net contribution it is £5.7 billion, not £18.8 billion as Vote Leave claims. The IFS have also said that using contribution figures “without the UK’s rebate having been deducted” is “less sensible”.
Using European Commission figures, the average annual UK net contribution 2010-2014 was £7.1bn, clearly far short of the claims made by Vote Leave.
The Office of National Statistics show an average UK contribution 2010-2014 of £8.9bn.
This evidence conclusively shows that the £350 million figure is factually incorrect and I believe it is being used to purposefully mislead.
I am writing to request that you please confirm that the Vote Leave claim that £350 million is sent to the EU is factually incorrect.
Our concern is that this is being presented as an official statistic, when in fact there is clear and independent evidence to show that it is wrong.
Given the UK Statistics Authority’s role to “promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good” and to “ensure good practice in relation to official statistics”, I believe this falls within your remit.
I hope that you will confirm that this is this figure is incorrect.
Norman Lamb MP