Media Statement: The official EU referendum campaign period opens

Referendum update

Today (Friday 15 April) marks the start of the official EU referendum period, where the rules that campaigners must follow at the referendum on issues such as spending and working together come into force.

The referendum period runs from today and continues up to and including polling day on Thursday 23 June.

Any individual or organisation who is unsure whether their campaigning activity is likely to fall within the scope of the rules can contact the Electoral Commission directly for advice.

Commenting on the start of the referendum period Bob Posner, Director of Party and Election Finance & Legal Counsel at the Electoral Commission said;

Today marks one of the most important dates in the referendum timetable for campaigners. It’s crucial that anyone who is, or is considering, campaigning is both aware of what the rules are and that they follow them. We’ve already been working with those who are campaigning for ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ outcomes, to ensure that this is the case and will continue to do so.


Campaign spending limits

Any individual or organisation that spends more than £10,000 on campaigning activities must register with the Electoral Commission as a ‘registered campaigner’.

All campaigners are subject to limits on the amount they can spend campaigning during the referendum period.

The spending limit for a registered campaigner is £700,000, for the designated lead campaigners it is £7 million and for political parties it is a variable amount between £700,000 and £7 million based on the particular party’s share of the vote at the last UK Parliamentary General Election.

For a full list of the spending limits see the Electoral Commission’s media handbook.

For a full list of campaigners that have registered to date please see here.

Working together

Campaigners that register with the Electoral Commission have their own individual spending limit, however there are specific rules on working together with other campaigners.

If a campaigner works together with one or more other campaigners that are not the designated lead campaigner during the referendum period, then the combined amount of referendum spending will count towards the spending limits for each campaigner involved.

Where one or more campaigners work together with a designated lead campaigner, the total amount of spending counts towards the lead campaign group’s spending limit.

Guidance on the rules for campaigners who are working together is available here

What counts as campaign spending?

Referendum campaign spending is defined as spending on certain campaign activities that are intended to, or are otherwise in connection with, promoting or bringing about a particular outcome in the referendum.

For details on what specific activity does and does not count as campaign spending please see the Electoral Commission’s media handbook.

Pre poll reporting

Registered campaigners, who are not also registered political parties, must complete four pre poll donation and loans reports setting out what donations and loans they receive over £7500 between 1 February 2016 and 23 June 2016.

For details on when the pre poll reports will be published please see the Electoral Commission’s media handbook.

Reporting campaign spending

Registered campaigners that spend more than £10,000 in the referendum period must report their campaign spending to the Electoral Commission by the following statutory deadlines:

The deadline for registered campaigners that have spent £250,000 or under to submit campaign spending returns is 23 September 2016.

The deadline for registered campaigners that have spent over £250,000 to submit campaign spending returns is 23 December 2016.

For more details on the referendum period, spending limits, campaign spending and reporting please refer to the Commission’s media handbook.

For more information contact Electoral Commission press office:

Extra notes

Notes to editors

  • The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  • The Electoral Commission has specific responsibilities and functions in relation to the delivery and regulation of referendums held under PPERA, which applies to any referendum Bill brought before the UK Parliament unless specifically stated otherwise. For more information see our website.