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Jean-Claude Juncker says £350m bus slogan was a lie as deputy calls Brexit Britain 'Game of Thrones on steroids'

Boris Johnson on the referendum campaign trail with Gisela Stuart MP in front of one of Vote Leave's battle buses. 
Boris Johnson on the referendum campaign trail with Gisela Stuart MP in front of one of Vote Leave's battle buses.  Credit: Andrew Parsons / i-Images /Andrew Parsons / i-Images 

The ‘Boris Bus’ Brexit slogan that Britain sends £350m to Brussels a week that could be spent on the NHS is a lie, Jean-Claude Juncker has said.

The president of the European Commission made the accusation as his deputy said British politics after Brexit was like “Game of Thrones on steroids”.  

Mr Juncker, who is reaching the end of his five year term, said he was wrong not to attack Vote Leave’s 2016 referendum claim, which was famously emblazoned on the side of a red bus.

"So many lies were told, and so many of the consequences resulting from a ‘no’ were misrepresented, that we, as the commission, should have spoken out,” he told Austria’s Der Standard newspaper.

“In hindsight, failing to rebut the claim that the UK sent £350 million per week to Brussels without drawing any benefit, was a mistake,” he said.

The slogan “We send the EU £350m a week, let’s fund our NHS instead” is credited with being influential in Leave winning the vote but has been controversial ever since.

It emerged this week that Boris Johnson, who has consistently defended the claim, could face private prosecution over allegations he misled the public by endorsing the figure.

The sum is controversial because it does not take into account cash paid to Britain by Brussels in EU funding. It also assumes such funding will stop after Brexit rather than be taken over and continued by the UK government.

Jean-Claude Juncker plants a trademark smacker on the obliging head of his deputy Frans Timmermans.  Credit: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Juncker’s deputy Frans Timmermans, who is standing in the European elections as a candidate to replace him as the head of the EU’s civil service, said Brexit had wreaked chaos in Britain.

Mr Timmermans said in a TV debate in Brussels on Wednesday night, “The UK looks like Game of Thrones on steroids.”

Game of Thrones is a hugely popular TV series, which depicts rival warlords in a fantasy world scheming against each other to usurp power. It is also famous for nudity and violence.

Mr Timmermans was referring to the constant speculation over the future of Theresa May, who has faced calls to resign for her handling of Brexit, and the jockeying to replace her.

The ex-foreign minister of the Netherlands admitted that the EU was to blame for the success of nationalist parties.

“Yes we are to blame,” he said, “but we do have solutions.”