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Farage's Brexit Party under funding review

May 20, 2019

Former British premier Gordon Brown has called for the Electoral Commission to investigate Nigel Farage's Brexit Party. There are also concerns over the accounting of funds for the party leader.

Nigel Farage at the European Parliament
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J.F. Badias

Ahead of Thursday's European election vote in the UK, the Electoral Commission is planning to visit the Brexit Party's offices on Tuesday.

Commission officers are to go to the party offices and review the systems it has in place to receive funds, including donations that have to be from the UK only.

"If there is evidence that the law may have been broken, we will consider that in line with our enforcement policy," the independent body set up by parliament to regulate party and election finance, said on Monday.

The Commission said it was already in touch with the new party which, it said, was: "also subject to rules for reporting donations, loans, campaign spending and end-of-year accounts. We have already been talking to the party about these issues."

"The Brexit Party, like all registered political parties, has to comply with laws that require any donation it accepts of over £500 (€570 or $636) to be from a permissible source," a spokesperson for the Commission said.

Funds to the Brexit party have come via PayPal accounts which convert foreign currency into UK sterling
Funds to the Brexit party have come via PayPal accounts which convert foreign currency into UK sterlingImage: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Ex-Labour leader calls for investigation

In a speech in Scotland on Monday, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the Brexit Party of receiving a large amount of money via small, undeclared, untraceable payments." Brown said: "You can pay to this party in Russian rubles or American dollars."

Brown said the European parliament should investigate disclosures made last week that Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage had received about £450,000 (€513,000) from businessman Arron Banks who funded his Leave.EU campaign in 2016. Banks "has been under investigation," Brown said. "He has big contacts with Russia."

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has written to the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, calling for an investigation into the funds allegedly received from Banks by Farage.

"I can see no reference to any of the reported travel or accommodation subsidies related to Mr Farage’s US tour on any of his declarations of financial interests on the parliament’s website," Bearder wrote." She commented that Banks was "currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency over the source of his funding for the Brexit campaign."

Electoral Commission visit

Brexit party chairman Richard Tice said on BBC radio on Monday that they may be getting donations in foreign currencies, although on Twitter he wrote: "The Brexit Party only receives money in sterling."

Nigel Farage was indignant over the accusations. "Frankly, this smacks of jealousy because the other parties simply can't do this," he said.

Pro- and anti-Brexit parties in the UK are virtually tied ahead of the European elections on Thursday. The anti-Brexit parties, including The Liberal Democrats, Greens, the Scottish National Party, Wales' Plaid Cymru and ChangeUK, were given 37.5% of voting intentions in a YouGov-ECFR poll, ahead of the Brexit Party's 33.4%.

An umbrella in EU colors
Image: Reuters/L. Niesner

jm/ng (AFP, dpa)

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