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Boris Johnson Accused Of "Exaggerating" EU Rules To Make Case For Brexit

His claims on coffins, balloons, and teabags were ripped apart by MPs.

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Boris Johnson has been condemned by MPs for his "exaggerated or misinterpreted" warnings about the extent of EU laws.

The London mayor, who is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, was taken to task over his claims that people in the EU are banned from recycling teabags and children under 8 aren't allowed to blow up balloons.

He made those accusations in his column for the Daily Telegraph in February.

Johnson was up in front of the Treasury select committee on Tuesday to give evidence on the costs of Britain's EU membership. Chair Andrew Tyrie, a Tory MP, asked him to explain his balloons remark.

Johnson said: "The European Commission's own website says that adult supervision is required in the use of uninflated balloons by children under 8. ... I do think it is absolutely ludicrous to have this kind of proscription at a European level, I think it’s absolutely bonkers."

But Tyrie cast doubt on his claims. "What it actually says, Boris, because I've got the toy safety directive here, it's asking that this warning be placed on the packaging," he said. "It's not requiring or forbidding."


Johnson added that councils had "gold-plated" EU rules to effectively prevent people in the UK from recycling teabags.

Tyrie replied: “It’s not true, though, to say there is an EU regulation or directive that prohibits people from recycling teabags. It's a misrepresentation to say people are being prevented from recycling teabags."

He asked Johnson about further claims – made in Johnson's book Lend Me Your Ears – about EU legislation dictating the weight and dimensions of coffins across Europe.

Johnson defended this, saying it was true there were "Euro coffin" regulations – although, he joked, the dimensions had probably changed because everyone was getting fatter.

But Tyrie said it was simply a Council of Europe convention on the transfer of corpses with "no reference to dimensions", no EU legislation, and to which the UK wasn't a signatory. "So the story is a figment of your imagination," he said.

As Johnson squirmed, Tyrie added: "I've been through quite a list there, either of things which require quite a bit of qualification to understand, or where I think a reasonable person would say you've either exaggerated or misinterpreted the extent to which the words..."

Later as Johnson made yet another joke during the hearing, Tyrie accused him of taking a "very partial, busking, humour-esque approach to a very serious question for the UK."

Johnson was repeatedly called to order by Tyrie throughout the two hour, 45 minute session, after talking over MPs and failing to answer specific questions.

During a fractious exchange with Labour MP Wes Streeting, Tyrie told Johnson: "Order! I'm not going to instruct you to stop interrupting the questioner again.

"Boris, let Wes ask his question and then try and address your answer to the question and not perhaps what you would have wanted the question to be."

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

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