UK Electoral Commission accuses Brexit campaign of breaching spending rules | News | DW | 17.07.2018
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UK Electoral Commission accuses Brexit campaign of breaching spending rules

Britain's Electoral Commission has fined the Vote Leave campaign for "serious breaches of the law." The Brexit group has accused the Commission of being "motivated by a political agenda."

The UK's Electoral Commission announced on Tuesday that it has referred Vote Leave's spending figures to the Metropolitan Police for an alleged breach of electoral law during the campaign for the referendum on Britain's EU membership. 

The statutory body, which regulates referendum standards, said in a statement that it found "significant evidence of undeclared joint working" between the official Brexit campaign group, Vote Leave, and the smaller pro-Brexit youth group BeLeave.

It alleged that Vote Leave, the pro-Brexit campaign group, and BeLeave, another campaign group, worked to a common plan during the Brexit campaign. The Commission said that BeLeave spent 675,000 pounds ($893,500; €762,600) with Aggregate IQ, a company which used social media data to target voters.

David Halsall, the person responsible for Vote Leave, and Darren Grimes, the founder of BeLeave, were accused of submitting false campaign spending declarations.

No mandate for Brexit

Barrister Jo Maugham, who called for the Commission to investigate the breach of parliamentary rules, greeted the decision on Tuesday saying: "I do not believe the referendum result, a result won by illegality, 'cheating' if you like, can be said to represent the will of the people on that day in June 2016. The referendum should no longer be pretended to provide any mandate for Brexit."

Labour's David Lammy, who is campaigning for another referendum on the issue said the report means the "narrow referendum result looks dodgier than ever."

Conservative lawmaker Sarah Wollaston said via Twitter: "Brexit was not only sold on deliberate lies and false promises, but also by breaking electoral law."

Read more: EU supporters rally in London for public vote on Brexit terms

'No evidence of wrongdoing'

In response to the allegations, Vote Leave said there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the Brexit campaign. A Vote Leave spokesman said, "The Electoral Commission's report contains a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny." He accused the commission of being motivated by a political agenda, and said the group was confident the commission's findings would be overturned. 

Read more: UK Brexit funder Arron Banks rejects Russian financing claims 

A breakdown of the fines

The investigation, which opened in November 2017, focused on Vote Leave, as well as three people: David Halsall, Darren Grimes and David Banks. The Electoral Commission fined each of them for breaching electoral law.

David Halsall: As the person responsible for Vote Leave, Halsall was fined £20,000 for failing to deliver a complete statement of all payments made for Vote Leave, a further £1,000 for failing to attach the required invoices and receipts to the statement, and £20,000 for incurring spending in excess of the statutory spending limit for Vote Leave.

Vote Leave: Fined £20,000 for failing to produce documents by a specific date.

Darren Grimes: Acting on behalf on BeLeave, Grimes was fined £20,000 for incurring spending that exceeded the legal limit for a non-registered campaigner. Grimes is further accused of failing to deliver a complete spending return as an individual registered campaigner, however received no additional fine for this offense.

David Banks: As the person responsible for Veterans for Britain, Banks was fined £250 for failing to deliver a spending return that included an accurate report of relevant donations received.

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kw/kms (AFP, Reuters) 

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