LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Electoral Commission imposed a record-matching 70,000 pound fantastic on Friday on one of many major teams that campaigned for Brexit, and mentioned police would possibly have to analyze potential legal offences due to unreported marketing campaign spending.
The Leave.EU marketing campaign mentioned it could problem the discovering that it had breached a spending restrict by failing to declare at the very least 77,380 kilos. It mentioned the alleged breaches have been minor and the report proved there was no “big conspiracy” across the Brexit vote.
The documented breaches of electoral legislation might nonetheless gasoline calls for from opponents of Brexit for a re-run of the 2016 referendum. The fee mentioned it was imposing the foundations with out suggesting the breach had altered the consequence.
“These are serious offences,” mentioned Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s director of political finance and regulation. “Leave.EU exceeded its spending limit and failed to declare its funding and its spending correctly.”
Asked on BBC radio if the fee was saying the breach was critical sufficient to have impacted the consequence, its chief govt, Claire Bassett, mentioned “No”, however she added that the foundations nonetheless wanted to be enforced.
The fee mentioned it suspected legal offences might have been dedicated, and the particular person accountable, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney, had been referred to the police.
In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.four million voters, or 51.9 p.c, backed leaving the EU whereas 16.1 million voters, or 48.1 p.c, backed staying.
Arron Banks, the founding father of Leave.EU who was pictured with Donald Trump and main Brexiteer Nigel Farage outdoors a gilded elevator quickly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, forged doubt on the fee’s impartiality.
“The Electoral Commission is a ‘Blairite Swamp Creation’ packed full of establishment ‘Remoaners’,” Banks mentioned, utilizing an epithet that Brexit supporters have coined for these, comparable to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who have continued to marketing campaign to stay within the EU regardless of the referendum.
“We view the Electoral Commission announcement as a politically motivated attack on Brexit and the 17.4 million people who defied the establishment to vote for an independent Britain,” he mentioned. “What a shambles. We will see them in court.”
The fee mentioned it had found no proof that Leave.EU obtained donations or paid-for companies from the agency Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy on the centre of a storm over how Facebook information was utilized in political campaigns.
Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica had beforehand denied working collectively on the referendum. Members of parliament have referred to as for investigations into any position the agency might have had within the Brexit marketing campaign.
The fee mentioned Leave.EU failed to incorporate companies it obtained from U.S. marketing campaign technique agency Goddard Gunster in a spending return, and inaccurately reported three loans. Leave.EU exceeded the spending restrict for non-party registered campaigners by at the very least 10 p.c, it mentioned.
The fantastic is the joint greatest handed down by the Electoral Commission, matching a fantastic given to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative occasion for inaccurately reporting spending in elections in 2014 and 2015.
Leave.EU mentioned the overall alleged overspending represented lower than zero.1 p.c of general spending on the marketing campaign, and the fees towards it fell properly wanting what the fee thought it could discover when it began its investigation.
“The Electoral Commission went big game fishing and found a few ‘aged’ dead sardines on the beach. So much for the big conspiracy,” Banks mentioned.
Editing by Richard Balmforth and Peter Graff