Theresa May refuses to criticise Boris Johnson's false £350 million Brexit claim

Boris Johnson campaigning in the EU referendumMatt Cardy / GettyBoris Johnson
  • Theresa May declines to get involved in row between Boris Johnson and the statistics watchdog
  • PM’s spokesperson says the foreign secretary’s views are “well known” and asks journalists to look the figures up themselves.
  • UK Statistics Authority have accused Johnson of a “clear misuse of figures” over the amount Britain pays into the EU.
  • Johnson hits out at watchdog for “misrepresenting” him.

LONDON — Theresa May has refused to criticise the foreign secretary Boris Johnson after he was publicly rebuked by the official statistics authority for repeating false claims about the money Britain pays into the EU.

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove, accused Johnson of a “clear misuse of official statistics” after he resurrected his Brexit campaign claim that Britain will get £350 million a week extra to spend on the NHS.

Johnson fired back, accusing Norgrove of “a complete misrepresentation of what I said” in his 4,000 Telegraph essay at the weekend.

However, when asked by Business Insider whether the prime minister was happy with Johnson’s continued used of the figure, her spokeswoman replied: “I’m not getting into that,” before asking journalists to look up the correct figure themselves.

“All of the UK’s contributions to the EU are published online and you can go and look at them,” she said adding: “I’m not getting into the ins and outs of the figures.”

Pushed on whether May would use the figure herself, she replied:

“We are putting extra spending into the NHS and we have always been clear that when we leave the EU we will be able to choose how we spend our own money.”

She added: “The foreign secretary has clarified what he meant.”

Asked about the public war of words between Johnson and Norgrove, May’s spokeswoman added that: “The foreign secretary’s views are well known and he has expressed them during the referendum campaign.”

The prime minister is expected to field questions on the row later this afternoon when she takes part in a press conference with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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