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Jan 16, 6:22 AM EST

The Latest: Johnson claims Brexit savings more than claimed


BRUSSELS (AP) -- The Latest on Britain's exit from the European Union (all times local):

12:20 p.m.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has defended a debunked claim that leaving the European Union will save Britain 350 million pounds ($481 million) a week. In fact, Johnson says, the figure is too low.

The claim that "we send the EU 350 million pounds a week" was emblazoned on the side of a bus used by the "leave" campaign in Britain's 2016 EU membership referendum.

The Office for National Statistics said that's a gross figure that does not take account of rebates and other deductions. The net amount the U.K. pays is about 180 million pounds per week.

But Johnson told The Guardian that the bus claim "grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control."

In an interview published Tuesday he said Britain's gross contribution to the EU budget was 362 million pounds a week, and would rise to 438 million pounds a week by the end of a two-year transition period after Brexit in 2019.

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10:30 a.m.

European Union chief Donald Tusk is urging Britain to change its mind about leaving the bloc next year and says the EU would welcome the country back.

Tusk said Tuesday that "if the U.K. government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality, with all its negative consequences, in March next year unless there is a change of heart among our British friends."

Addressing EU lawmakers, Tusk quoted U.K. Brexit envoy David Davis as saying that "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."

Tusk said that "we here on the continent haven't had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you."

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