The campaign to leave the EU is misleading the public about the real cost of membership, the offical statistics watchdog ruled today.
The UK statistics authority said continued claims by Vote Leave that EU membership costs the UK £350m a week are "misleading" and "undermines trust in official statistics."
"The UK Statistics Authority is disappointed to note that there continue to be suggestions that the UK contributes £350 million to the EU each week, and that this full amount could be spent elsewhere," the organisation's chair Andrew Dilnot said.
"As we have made clear, the UK’s contribution to the EU is paid after the application of the rebate. We have also pointed out that there are payments received by the UK public and private sectors that are relevant here. The continued use of a gross figure in contexts that imply it is a net figure is misleading and undermines trust in official statistics."
The UKSA had previously warned Vote Leave that the £350 million figure was misleading. However, their campaign material has continued to suggest that leaving the EU would allow the UK to spend £350m on the NHS, or other priorities. The figure is placed prominently on Vote Leave leaflets, videos and their cmapign battle bus.
— Vote Leave (@vote_leave) 19 May 2016
Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal studies earlier this week suggests that the UK's actual net contribution to the EU is £150m a week – less than half that claimed by Vote Leave.
The Conservative chairman of the Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie today described Vote Leave's claim as "bogus" and called on the campaign to repaint their battle bus to remove it.
The Remain campaign said the UKSA's verdict revealed their opponent's "shameless" attempts to deceive the public.
"This is an unprecedented intervention from the UK's highest statistics authority, who for the third time have felt the need to expose Vote Leave over their shameless attempts to mislead the British people," Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who first wrote to the UK Statistics Authority said.
"The Leave campaign’s central arguments are collapsing under the weight of independent scrutiny."