Boris Johnson challenges misconduct summons in court

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, on Friday challenged a lawsuit accusing him of knowingly lying during the Brexit referendum campaign.

Lawyers for Johnson, who leads a crowded field of contenders vying to be Conservative Party leader after May formally resigns today, claimed in court that the private prosecution is “politically motivated and vexatious”.

The MP, who was not present, wants London’s High Court to throw out a judge’s decision last month to allow a summons ordering him to appear in court over allegations of misconduct in public office.

“The only rational conclusion which could be reached was that the prosecution was politically motivated and, therefore, vexatious,” Adrian Darbishire told two High Court judges hearing the challenge.

The case, brought by businessman Marcus Ball in a crowd-funded initiative, concerns Johnson’s claim that Britain sends £350 million ($440 million, 400 million euros) a week to the European Union.

While this was Britain’s gross contribution, the net figure accounts for a budget rebate from the EU as well as payments to Britain’s public sector from the EU budget and is substantially less.

The official Leave campaign emblazoned the controversial figure on the side of its touring bus during the 2016 EU referendum, while Johnson and other Brexiteers repeatedly trumpeted it campaigning.

Ball, 29, who has crowdfunded more than £300,000 through an online campaign to bring the case, told reporters ahead of the hearing he believed in “the merits of it”.

In a written decision on May 29, district judge Margot Coleman agreed, ruling she was satisfied there was a proper case to issue a summons — prompting Friday’s legal challenge.

Johnson on Monday launched his campaign to succeed May as Conservative leader.

She steps down Friday and formally triggers the race for a successor, but will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July.


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