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13.06.2019

UK court: Boris Johnson has no case to answer over ‘Brexit fake news’

By Frederic Krull

The High Court in London has blocked a private prosecution against Boris Johnson, a candidate for Prime Minister on charges of misconduct in public office – namely telling lies during the Brexit referendum campaign.

UK court: Boris Johnson has no case to answer over ‘Brexit fake news’ Boris Johnson (Photo: public domain)

The allegations that have been levelled against Johnson within this case are based on his statements in the campaign prior the referendum on the Brexit in 2016. The prosecution stated that Johnson has „repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership, expressly stating, endorsing or inferring that the cost of EU membership was £350 million per week. “. This figure was painted on the side of a campaign bus and used repeatedly during the referendum, with the claim that money saved from UK’s payments to the EU would be spent on the National Health Service.

After the application for a summons was accepted by the Westminster Magistrate`s Court on 29 May, Johnson and his lawyers launched a judicial review which was successfully confirmed by the High Court on 7. June. Boris Johnson, who is the most likely candidate for Britain’s next Prime Minister avoided a court appearance to explain himself over the accusation of lying and misleading the public.

Private prosecutor Marcus J. Ball initiated the suit, who has been working on this case for almost three years now. Ball is the founder of "Brexit Justice", the crowdfunding project that is financing the prosecution process and that has raised more than 350.000 GBP. However, in an LBC Interview with Andrew Pierce, Ball emphasises that he took a high financial risk with the case. Right now, he has open bills to his legal team as well as to other service providers that need to be paid with money that has not yet been raised. Brexit Justice website shows all the expenses Ball had until 16th September 2018. According to this report, he barely earned 24.000 GBP (~ 26.000€) per year, which is less than the minimum wage.

Speaking outside the court, Ball told reporters: “We have just given the green light for every politician to lie to us about our money forever. That is a terrifying idea.” He added: “I would ask you, please, all members of Parliament, all elected representatives, understand: you cannot lie to the public about their money.”

After the disappointment over thrown case by the High Court, Marcus Ball left with the question, why “an MP should not be prosecuted for lying to the entire country about public spending figures?”

Full Fact (UK’s leading fact checking service) already clarified in December 2018, that the claimed 350 million GBP per week or 19 billion GBP per year, is not an amount of money that the UK sends to the EU. Relying on HM Treasury statistics, they estimated the amount of about 9 billion GBP net contributions, underlining the big difference to the claimed 19 billion as stated by Boris Johnson.

However another candidate for Prime Minister, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, tweeted support for his rival:

The defendant’s side, led by Johnson’s lawyer Adrian Darbishire argued, that the reason for the case was purely political, to undermine the people’s decision on the Brexit.