LONDON — The weekly net contribution the UK paid to the European Union last year was less than half the £350 million famously splashed on the side of a bus by Brexit campaign group Vote Leave.
Treasury figures suggest that the UK paid £8.1 billion to the EU in the year 2016-2017 as part of its financial obligations as a member state — which works out at £156 million a week.
Monthly payments from the UK to Brussels were at their lowest level for half a decade.
This is the first time data has been published for the period including the referendum on Britain’s EU membership on June 23, 2016.
The amount of money the UK gives to the EU in order to be a member was one of the key issues leading up to last year’s in-out referendum.
The Vote Leave campaign group — which had committee members including Conservative ministers Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom — made the contentious claim that UK government hands over £350 million a week to Brussels.
The campaign group travelled around the nation in a bus with “We send the EU £350m a week” printed on the side and claimed this money could be spent instead on funding the National Health Service.
Remain campaigners pointed out that Vote Leave’s sums ignored the money the UK gets back from Brussels both in its rebate and the money the EU pays to the UK’s public sector. For example, before taking into account the money the UK gets back from Brussels on an annual basis, the UK’s gross contribution to the EU last year was £16.9 billion (or around £325 million a week). However, once the rebate and public sector payments are taken into consideration, the UK’s gross contribution was actually £8.1 billion (or around £156 million a week).
Reacting to the Treasury figures, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a leading figure of the Open Britain group, said: “Those people who voted to quit the EU because they thought leaving the EU would deliver a cash boost for the NHS are going to be left disappointed.
“Brexit will mean less, not more, money for our public services.”
Liberal Democrat spokesperson Tom Brake MP said: “The Leave campaign promised £350m extra a week for the NHS.
“Not only have the Brexiteers failed to stump up this extra cash, but it turns out the UK’s contribution to the EU was less than half what they claimed.
“This contribution pales in comparison to the economic benefits we get from being part of the single market and customs union.”
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