A judge is set to decide on whether or not Boris Johnson will be summonsed to court to face accusations of misconduct in public office over claims he was lying when he said the UK gave the EU £350 million a week.
Lawyers representing Marcus Ball lodged an application at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to summons Johnson as part of a private prosecution against the former foreign secretary.
Lewis Power QC, representing Ball, told the court on Thursday that Johnson had deliberately misled the public during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016 and then repeated the statement during the 2017 general election.
He said: “Democracy demands responsible and honest leadership from those in public office. The conduct of the proposed defendant Boris Johnson was both irresponsible and dishonest. It was, we say, criminal.”
Power said the prosecution’s application was not brought to undermine the result of the Brexit referendum, and was not about what could have been done with the saved money.
He added: “The allegation with which this prosecution is concerned, put simply, is Mr Johnson repeatedly misrepresented the amount that the UK sends to Europe each week.
“It is concerned with one infamous statement: ‘We send the EU £350 million a week.’
“The UK has never sent, given or provided £350 million a week to Europe – that statement is simply not ambiguous.
“The prosecution is not about Brexit, the only relevance to Brexit is that it was during the Brexit referendum Mr Johnson chose to mislead the public.”
Johnson was not in court for the hearing, but Adrian Darbishire, representing the MP, said his client denies acting dishonestly.
He added: “I should make it clear that because of the interest in this case that it is absolutely denied by Mr Johnson that he acted in an improper or dishonest manner at any time.”
Before the hearing, Ball said: “This case is a world first, it has never happened before.
“A member of parliament has never been prosecuted for misconduct in public office based upon alleged lying to the public.
“My backers and I aspire to set a precedent in the UK common law making it illegal for an elected representative to lie to the public about financial matters.”
He has previously said he raised more than £370,000 across several crowdfunding campaigns to finance the case.
District Judge Margot Coleman said she would provide her decision in writing to the parties on Wednesday May 29.