The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has ruled that a claim in the Daily Telegraph that the UK sends £350m a week to the European Union was “not significantly inaccurate”.
The figure was quoted in a column by prominent Leave campaigner and incumbent Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
IPSO received a complaint from Ian Rowlands arguing that the Daily Telegraph article, headlined: “My vision for a bold, thriving Britain enabled by Brexit” and published on 15 September, 2017, was inaccurate.
In the article, Johnson wrote that the UK would “take back control of roughly £350 million per week” when it left the EU.
It was illustrated by a picture of the Foreign Secretary standing in front of the red campaign bus with the £350m figure printed on its side.
Rowlands argued that the figure was inaccurate because the UK received a rebate of approximately £4bn and contributed less than £350m a week in 2016.
The Daily Telegraph disputed the complaint, saying the £350m figure included the rebate and that the figure came from HM Treasury statistics.
IPSO’s Complaints Commitee said it was not ruling on whether the political statement was correct, but “whether the newspaper had taken care in reporting a distinct claim”.
It said: “The UK’s membership fee before the rebate is applied, varies from each year, but it in 2015 equated to £19.5bn, approximately £375m per week. It was not significantly inaccurate to characterise this as ‘roughly £350m’.”
The committee also ruled on Boris Johnson’s claim that the UK would “take back control” of the money after leaving the EU, saying it did not represent a breach under Clause 1 of the Editor’s Code of Practice.
It said: “The article had not focused on the cost to the UK of EU membership. To ‘take back control’ has a different meaning.
“In circumstances where the rebate is not solely controlled by the UK, and where the cost of membership in 2015, leaving aside the rebate, was £375 million per week, the committee did not consider that the claim under complaint was inaccurate.
“In the context of this article, the phrase ‘control’ referred to the ability to decide how this money may be spent, which in relation to the EU, extends beyond the money it directly receives from the UK.”
No issue was found with the photograph.
The complaint was not upheld.
Picture: Reuters/Darren Staples