LONDON (Reuters) – One of the primary Brexit marketing campaign teams was fined 70,000 kilos ($95,000) on Friday by the electoral fee for breaking spending guidelines in Britain’s EU referendum and police might have to research legal offences, the fee stated.
The fee, detailing its findings in a 31-page doc, stated Leave.EU incorrectly reported what it spent on the EU referendum, failing to incorporate at the very least 77,380 kilos in its spending return and thus exceeding a spending restrict.
The documented breaches of electoral legislation are prone to gas calls for from opponents of Brexit for a re-run of the 2016 referendum, although there’s little signal to this point that the vote’s legitimacy has been undermined.
“These are serious offences,” stated 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.”
The fee stated it suspected legal offences might have been dedicated, and the individual accountable, Leave.EU CEO Liz Bilney, had been referred to the police.
In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.four million votes, or 51.9 p.c of votes forged, backed leaving the EU whereas 16.1 million votes, or 48.1 p.c of votes forged, backed staying.
But ever because the shock vote which divided the United Kingdom, opponents of Brexit have questioned what they are saying is Britain’s largest mistake since World War Two and the strategies and funding of campaigners for Brexit.
Supporters of leaving the EU say opponents of Brexit try to water down and even cease Brexit with a myriad of authorized and political ploys that they warn may thrust Britain right into a constitutional disaster.
Arron Banks, the founding father of Leave.EU who was pictured with Donald Trump and main Brexiteer Nigel Farage exterior a gilded elevator quickly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, forged doubt on the fee’s impartiality.
Using the time period Remoaners – which is usually utilized by Brexiteers to explain opponents of Brexit resembling former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair – Banks stated he would face the fee in courtroom.
“The Electoral Commission is a ‘Blairite Swamp Creation’ packed full of establishment ‘Remoaners’,” Banks stated. “What a shambles. We will see them in court.”
“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 stated.
The fee stated it had found no proof that Leave.EU acquired donations or paid-for providers from Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy on the centre of a storm over how Facebook knowledge was utilized in political campaigns.
The fee stated Leave.EU failed to incorporate providers it acquired from U.S. marketing campaign technique agency Goddard Gunster in a spending return. The fee additionally found Leave.EU inaccurately reported three loans it had acquired.
Leave.EU exceeded the spending restrict for non-party registered campaigners by at the very least 10 p.c, the Electoral Commission stated.
The whole alleged overspend represented lower than zero.1 p.c of general marketing campaign finance spend, Leave.EU stated.
Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica had beforehand denied working collectively on the Brexit marketing campaign. Leave.EU was not the formally designated “leave” marketing campaign group through the referendum.
“The Electoral Commission went big game fishing and found a few ‘aged’ dead sardines on the beach. So much for the big conspiracy,” Banks stated.
Editing by Richard Balmforth