LONDON – A judge at a court in the United Kingdom issued on Wednesday a summons for former British foreign minister Boris Johnson to face accusations he spread lies during the Brexit campaign.
Johnson, who has been widely tipped to take over as Conservative Party leader and thus PM once Theresa May steps down, has been accused of misconduct in a public office and was called to attend Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
One allegation relates to a controversial campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum which erroneously said the UK paid 350 million pounds ($442 million) a week to the European Union and suggested it would be better to use that money to fund the country’s cherished National Health Service.
“The allegations which have been made are unproven accusations and I do not make any findings of fact,” Judge Margot Coleman said in a statement.
“Having considered all the relevant factors I am satisfied that this is a proper case to issue the summons as requested,” Coleman said. “This means the proposed defendant will be required to attend this court for a preliminary hearing, and the case will then be sent to the Crown Court for trial. The charges can only be dealt with in the Crown Court.”
Marcus Ball, a businessman, crowd-funded a private prosecution against the former London mayor.
The accusation said: “the (proposed) defendant 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.”
“Lying on a national and international platform undermines public confidence in politics, undermines the integrity of public referendums and brings both public offices held by the (proposed) defendant into disrepute. The law dictates that misconduct to such a degree requires a criminal sanction,” it added.
The accusations of misconduct in public office relate to Johnson’s time in the Leave campaign, between Feb. 21, 2016 and the referendum n June 23, 2016, as well as during the campaign the general election, from April 18 to May 3, 2017.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a former classmate of the ex-PM David Cameron at Oxford, announced he was running in the Conservative Party leadership bid before May announced she was stepping down.