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Boris Johnson Brexit Referendum Kampagne
Image: picture-alliance/empics/S. Rousseau

Boris Johnson wins legal challenge over Brexit misconduct

June 7, 2019

Britain's High Court has thrown out a lawsuit accusing Johnson of intentionally lying during the Brexit referendum campaign. This removes a potential hurdle to his Conservative Party leadership bid.


The leading candidate to become new head of the Conservative Party won his case as lawyers argued the private prosecution against him was "politically motivated and vexatious."

The private prosecution had alleged Johnson had committed misconduct in a public office by "misleading the public" about Brexit. 

"We are quashing the decision of the district judge to issue the summonses," Judge Michael Supperstone said as he issued the ruling, which determined the district judge had "erred in law" when she reached her decision.

Numbers on a bus

The case was brought by businessman Marcus Ball over Johnson's claim during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign that Britain sends 350 million pounds ($440 million, €400 million) to the European Union each week. A claim that was proven to be false.

The Brexit campaign put the figures on the side of a large bus and Johnson, along with his fellow campaigners, often repeated them. Many voters said they had been swayed by this, and claims regarding immigration, as they cast their vote to leave the EU.

Johnson's lawyer claimed the figure had been open to debate and for voters to discount: "It was just a political claim open to and available for contradiction and debate, and it was, and is, for the good sense of the electorate to discount it if they choose so to do," the lawyer added.

Boris Johnson
Boris JohnsonImage: Getty Images/AFP/D. Leal-Olivas

Error in law

A previous court decision had agreed with the plaintiff that Johnson had a case to answer.

But Johnson's lawyer appealed, claiming that "the prosecution was politically motivated and, therefore, vexatious."

The two-judge High Court panel agreed.

Leadership bid

Theresa May steps down from the leadership of the Conservative Party on Friday and Johnson, a former foreign minister, is leading in the bets on who will replace her. He has already received the backing of US President Donald Trump

Speaking outside the court on Friday, plaintiff Ball said he would decide whether or not to appeal after he had seen the judges' full decision. 

"We have just given the green light for every politician to lie to us about our money forever," he said. "That is a terrifying idea."

jm/rt (Reuters, AP)

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