‘Biased’ Electoral Commission Fines Vote Leave, MPs Demand Brexit be Nullified

AFP/Ben Stansall

The Electoral Commission has been called biased and politicised after attacking and fining the Vote Leave campaign — a move which sparked new calls for Brexit to be overturned.

The Commission stated in their report Tuesday that Vote Leave, the official Leave campaign group, broke electoral law, fined them £61,000, and referred the case to the police.

Specifically, the watchdog says the £7 million spending limit was broken as £675,315 was sent to another pro-Brexit group, BeLeave, founded by Darren Grimes, who was fined £20,000 and also referred to the police.

The groups, they say, were acting together, and the money could only have been spent legally if BeLeave was truly independent.

Vote Leave, meanwhile, says the “wholly inaccurate” report was politically motivated and Mr Grimes claims he did nothing wrong and simply “ticked the wrong box when registering his campaign”.

“It is clear that the Electoral Commission has caved to political pressure from those who despise Brexit enough to pour hundreds of thousands of pounds into thwarting it through our courts and backroom channels,” he added in a statement.

Several members of the Commission have declared links to and interests in the success of the European Union (EU) and most supported the Remain campaign, leading to widespread accusation of bias.

The Commission has previously attacked and given a fine of £70,000 to the unofficial, grassroots, pro-Brexit group Leave.EU, with its founder, Arron Banks, also accusing them of bias and promising to fight the claims.

The pro-EU European Movement UK has also been fined over their referendum spending, and there are at least five other examples of claims of improper or over-spending on the anti-Brexit side.

Analysis has also revealed that the Remain side out-spent the Leave side by about two to one, including all official campaigning and the taxpayer-funded leafleting conducted shortly before spending restrictions were applied.

Despite this, both Tory and Labour MPs were quick to use the Electoral Commission’s report on Tuesday to once again call for Brexit to be stopped.

Labour MP Julie Elliott said the government should declare the referendum “null and void” and Sarah Wollaston, a Tory committee chairman, demanded the referendum be rerun and said the Electoral Commission report reveals deliberate “cheating”.

The comments were made during a debate sparked by Labour MP Chuka Umunna — who is currently campaigning to overturn Brexit — after he was granted an urgent question in the House of Commons after the news emerged.

He used it to demand a public inquiry into the campaign for Britain to leave the EU and said calls for a second vote to overturn Brexit were now strengthened.

“The findings of the Electoral Commission are shocking and Vote Leave’s actions an affront to our democracy and that fundamental British value of fair play,” he told MPs.

“Who do these people think they are? They think they are above the law. We know their claims turned out to be a fantasy but we know how they cheated too, and it’s official.”


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