Leave.EU fined for multiple breaches of electoral law following investigation

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details 11.05.18
Publication Date 11/05/2018
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It was announced on the 11 May 2018 that the pro-Brexit campaigning group Leave.EU had been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission for offences committed under electoral law, following its investigation into the campaigner’s funding and spend during the EU referendum.

Further information

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) it was the responsibility of all campaigners to ensure that an accurate and complete campaign spending return was submitted to the Electoral Commission by the statutory deadline following the EU referendum.

In February 2017, through its proactive monitoring work, the Commission became aware of suggestions that services had been provided to Leave.EU by the US data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and the US campaign strategist firm Goddard Gunster. Leave.EU’s spending return did not include spending with either organisation. Any services provided at no cost would have constituted a donation from an impermissible source. An investigation was opened in April 2017 and the scope of that investigation was extended as further evidence came to light.

Leave.EU failed to include at least £77,380 in its spending return, thereby exceeding the spending limit for non-party registered campaigners by at least 10%. The Commission also considers that the unlawful over-spend may well have been considerably higher than that. Services the group received from the US campaign strategy firm Goddard Gunster were not included in the spending return, despite a proportion of them having been used during Leave.EU’s referendum campaign.

The Commission found Leave.EU inaccurately reported three loans it had received. This included a lack of transparency and incorrect reporting around who provided the loans, the dates the loans were entered into, the repayment date and the interest rate. Finally, Leave.EU failed to provide the required invoice or receipt for 97 payments of over £200, totalling £80,224.

As part of the investigation, the Commission looked at whether Leave.EU received services from Cambridge Analytica that should have been declared on its spending return. The investigation found no evidence that Leave.EU received donations or paid-for services from Cambridge Analytica for its referendum campaigning and found that the relationship did not develop beyond initial scoping work*

Through its investigation, the Commission also has reasonable grounds to suspect that the responsible person for Leave.EU committed criminal offences and she has therefore been referred to the Metropolitan Police.

Response by Leave.eu

Leave.EU co-founder, Arron Banks issued a press statement on the Electoral Commission report 'The Electoral Commission is a ‘Blairite Swamp Creation’ packed full of establishment ‘Remoaners’ that couldn’t quite make it to the House of Lords, but managed to get their noses in the trough via appointment to public bodies like the Electoral Commission.

We view the Electoral Commission announcement as a politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4m people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain'.

On the 1 November 2018 the Electoral Commission announced that Arron Banks, Better for the Country (the organisation that ran the Leave.EU referendum campaign) and others had been referred to the National Crime Agency for multiple suspected offences.

Some commentators asked if the investigation against Banks confirmed wrongdoing, could Brexit be declared void in court? A legal case was expected to be heard in the High Court (Wilson and others v Prime Minister) on the 7 December 2018.

See also information regarding the separate Brexit supporting organisation Vote Leave. The Electoral Commission published on the 17 July 2018 the conclusions of its investigation into the campaign spending of Vote Leave and a number of other campaigners, and had found Vote Leave and Darren Grimes, the founder of the BeLeave campaign group, broke electoral law.

* The relationship between Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica was separately examined by another UK body the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In November 2018 the ICO published a report to the UK Parliament called Investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns. Section 3.4 of its report was called ' The relationship between Cambridge Analytica (CA) and Leave.EU'. Section 3.5 was also relevant '3.5 Relationship between Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance Ltd (Eldon), Big Data Dolphins and the University Of Mississippi (UoM) case.

Source Link https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/leave.eu-fined-for-multiple-breaches-of-electoral-law-following-investigation
Related Links
In Facts, 22.05.18: 5 questions about Leave.EU that still need answering https://infacts.org/5-questions-about-leave-eu-that-still-need-answering/
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union http://www.europeansources.info/record/brexit-the-united-kingdom-and-the-european-union/
ESO: Background information: The battle to lead the Brexit campaign http://www.europeansources.info/record/blog-the-battle-to-lead-the-brexit-campaign/
Leave.eu https://leave.eu/
Leave.eu: News, 11.05.18: Leave.EU Responds to the Electoral Commission https://leave.eu/leave-eu-responds-to-the-electoral-commission/
The Guardian 11.05.18: What did Leave.EU do wrong, and could its breaches stop Brexit? https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/11/what-did-leaveeu-do-wrong-and-could-its-breaches-stop-brexit
BBC News, 11.05.18: Brexit: Leave.EU fined £70,000 for breaking electoral law during referendum http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44080096
New Statesman, 11.05.18: The Electoral Commission isn’t a 'Blairite swamp' – but Leave.EU is right about one thing https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/elections/2018/05/electoral-commission-isn-t-blairite-swamp-leaveeu-right-about-one-thing
Politico, 11.05.18: UK watchdog fines Leave.EU for breaking spending rules https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-uk-watchdog-fines-leave-eu-for-breaking-spending-rules/
BBC News, 01.11.18: Arron Banks faces Brexit referendum spending probe https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46056337
The Guardian, 03.11.18: Arron Banks faces new claims of misleading MPs over Brexit https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/03/arron-banks-faces-new-claims-of-misleading-mps-over-brexit
BBC News, 04.11.18: Brexit: Arron Banks challenged over Leave.EU funds https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46089236
In Facts, 02.11.18: Did May block probe into Arron Banks before referendum? https://infacts.org/did-may-block-probe-into-arron-banks-before-referendum/
The Guardian, 03.11.18: BBC criticised over Arron Banks slot on Andrew Marr show https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/03/bbc-criticised-over-arron-banks-slot-on-andrew-marr-show
UK: The Electoral Commission: Press Release, 01.11.18: Arron Banks, Better for the Country and others referred to the National Crime Agency for multiple suspected offences https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/party-and-election-finance-to-keep/arron-banks,-better-for-the-country-and-others-referred-to-the-national-crime-agency-for-multiple-suspected-offences
Politico, 01.11.18: UK National Crime Agency to investigate Brexit campaign funding https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-national-crime-agency-to-investigate-brexit-campaign-funding/
The Conversation, 05.11.18: Arron Banks criminal investigation: could evidence against him make Brexit void? https://theconversation.com/arron-banks-criminal-investigation-could-evidence-against-him-make-brexit-void-106281
UK: Information Commissioner’s Office: Report to Parliament, November 2018: Investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf
BBC News, 06.11.18: Leave.EU and Arron Banks insurance firm face £135,000 in fines https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-46109883
UK: Information Commissioner’s Office: Blog, 06.11.18: Information Commissioner’s report brings the ICO’s investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns up to date https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2018/11/ico-s-investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns/
In Facts, 06.11.18: Banks’ alleged cheating could boost People’s Vote https://infacts.org/banks-alleged-cheating-could-boost-peoples-vote/

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